The Future of Automation is Visual Guidance

The Future of Automation is Visual Guidance

Photo courtesy of Canva

When industrial robots were introduced to manufacturing lines, they promised to perform routine tasks at a consistent speed. The idea was that robots would increase production output and shorten lead time by making production processes faster, more accurate and more predictable.

Today, that dream isn’t always being realized. With traditional industrial robots, if a part is not positioned exactly where the robot expects it to be, the robot stops. This may mean the entire line stops until a worker moves the part into its correct position and the robot resumes operation. These stoppages reduce overall equipment efficiency (OEE).

The effectiveness of industrial robots has depended until now largely on programming. They have been programmed to perform limited actions repeatedly without any variation. The programming involves instructing the robot to make coordinated motions that all factor in the direction of movement, the rate of acceleration, the velocity, the rate of deceleration, the distance to be travelled, and more.

Anything that falls outside of these parameters causes the robot to stop. The robot is essentially blind. It depends on its programming and its controllers to operate.

But this is all changing with robotic vision systems.

The Future of Robotics is Visual Guidance

The future of industrial robotic automation is visual guidance. Robots will be guided not by programming alone, but by programming combined with artificial intelligence.

The Association for Advancing Automation, the trade association of the vision and imaging, robotics, motion control, and industrial AI industries, defines machine vision as the combination of hardware and software that provides operational guidance to devices in the execution of their functions based on the capture and processing of images.

Robotic vision guidance works by equipping machines with a camera and software that give the robot human-like sight and hand-eye coordination. With visual guidance, as long as the robot can see the part, it can gauge where it is, how to pick it up, and how to move it into position on the product.

Robotic visual guidance mimics human eyesight and the process of seeing and understanding objects and spatial relationships. The software uses a unique algorithm that gives production robots the ability to view, recognize and locate pre-determined parts. In any situation where a robotic arm must grab a part or object, robotic visual guidance cameras and their software can be taught to see it, recognize it, then grab it every time, no matter the object’s position or orientation.

This is the major advantage of robotic vision guidance over programmed “blind” robots; robotic vision guidance allows the robots to recognize and localize objects. In other words, they understand what a part is (they recognize it), and they understand where the part is (they localize it). This breakthrough ability eliminates the slowdowns and line stoppages that are common with blind robots.

Next Step: Robots That Move

As more and more robots become equipped with vision systems, the next phase of development within a manufacturing facility will be enabling the robots to move. Traditionally, robots have been anchored in place, with their range of motion limited by that singular anchor point.

Some systems have begun mounting robots instead on automated moveable platforms, giving the robot a greater ability to move around obstacles.

The less a robot needs to depend on a human to do its job, the more that robot is able to do its job. Allowing that robot to see and move on its own is the key to unlocking the true future of automation.

Join The Future

Robotic visual guidance systems like the Recognition Robotics Robeye® camera and CortexRecognition® software are the future of robotic automation. They solve some of robotics’ longstanding challenges, including the ability to recognize thousands of unique items and perform random part picking and sorting.

If you need to improve your automation processes with vision guidance, let’s talk.

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