Empowering Robots with 3D Smart Sensors - Part 1

The use of robots for factory automation applications is growing at a significant pace. More and more manufacturers are streamlining their production lines by taking simple, repetitive tasks out of the hands of workers and using small to medium-sized collaborative robots instead that can perform more accurately and efficiently.

The Importance of Pick-and-Place

Although robots can perform elaborate tasks like visual guidance or motion-based scanning, it is our experience that the majority of today’s robot automation applications are pick-and-place—which requires the robot system to locate and move parts <from one cell to another. Parts can be positioned systematically or randomly on moving conveyors, stacked bins, or pallets.</from

Such systems usually involve a robotic arm equipped with a vacuum- or pneumatic-based grip that allows the robot to contact the part on a variety of surfaces and effectively transport the part while avoiding collisions to a target destination. Some specialized applications require mechanical grips that have “fingers” to pick up, manipulate, and place the part.

In this application, a Gocator 2340 line profiler integrated with a Braas UR robot guides the arm to pick up parts presented one at a time and place them in a preset order and location, even when the exact location and 3D orientation of the part are variable.

Making Robots Smart

Robots are not “smart” enough to perform pick-and-place applications on their own. This is because they can’t “see” or “think”. As a result, robots require machine vision to visualize the scene, process information to make control decisions and execute precision-based mechanical movements.

To provide these critical functions, manufacturers can pair 3D smart sensors with robots to create a complete automation solution.

Why You Need 3D

2D-driven systems can only locate parts on a flat plane relative to the robot. Robotic systems equipped with 3D vision, on the other hand, can identify parts randomly posed in three dimensions (i.e., X-Y-Z), and accurately discover each part’s 3D orientation. This is a key capability for effective robotic pick-and-place—3D delivers both position and orientation information.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss the advantage of using smart 3D snapshot sensors in robotic systems, and the ease of robot-integration with Gocator®.