The use of robots for industrial 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.
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 is 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.
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®.