What Are Robotic Vision Systems?
From its earliest roots, the industrial assembly line has been focused on increasing efficiency and productivity. Over the last 100 years, technology has changed the way manufacturing facilities operate, but the end goal—producing a product quickly, efficiently and correctly—has always remained the same.
With those three goals in mind, the first robots were incorporated into the assembly process by General Motors in 1962. This evolution opened up a new possibility for manufacturers, as repetitive tasks were handled automatically and uniformly by machines, rather than humans. In addition, parts that previously required multiple workers to lift into place could be hoisted up by a machine. Dangerous tasks could now be completed by a robot, increasing safety.
It was only natural that applying a vision system to a robot would be the next major step in improving these machines.
Machines That Can See
Strictly speaking, a robotic vision system is a technology that enables a robot to “see.” These systems enable the machine to be able to identify, navigate, inspect or handle parts or tasks.
A robotic vision system consists of one or more cameras connected to a computer. The computer contains a processing software program that helps the robot interpret what it sees. Then, the robot follows the program’s instructions—specified by the manufacturing facility’s staff—to complete the specified task.
Additional elements, such as lighting, image sensors, communications devices or other components, can be incorporated to add to the machine’s overall capabilities.
What Can Seeing Robots Do?
The capabilities for robotic vision systems are seemingly endless. Robots can be used to handle a wide variety of tasks, such as:
• Product sorting
• Product assembly
Another capability for robotic vision systems is switching between parts and products on the same line. A robotic vision system could determine the difference between two products being built and select the appropriate part to be installed at that step in the process. This allows for greater flexibility to construct different units on the same line without the need to reprogram a “blind” robot that is expecting the same thing every time.
Benefits of a Robotic Vision System
While using robotic systems helps with general efficiency and productivity of an assembly plant, there are additional benefits that accompany the incorporation of a vision system with that robot.
Robots can be more precise and productive. Rather than requiring a stack of parts to be perfectly placed in alignment and orientation, a vision system can enable a robot to pick the correct part out of a bin of assorted products. This requires far less time to prepare the parts for installation in the assembly process.
Additionally, vision systems allow robots to have greater flexibility. A robot can identify where on the product it needs to complete its operation based on sight, rather than requiring a specific placement. This adaptability allows the assembly process to move quicker without being bogged down by imprecise placements.
Vision systems also offer greater quality control. When used for analyzing an object, a camera can magnify an image, allowing the robot to determine imperfections that would otherwise go unnoticed by a manual, human scan.
How Do You Differentiate Between Robotic Vision Systems?
While there are numerous vision systems to choose from, the differentiating factor is a system that can be configured, not programmed, in minutes, not months and can be installed and maintained by plant personnel.
The top-performing visual guidance systems will use intelligent computer software that takes a 2D camera image and interpret it as 3D with six degrees of freedom. Furthermore, these systems will run on their uniquely developed AI-based algorithms and are not confined nor constrained to using third party libraries. The ability to create, maintain and directly control the software platform allows for maximum flexibility and adaptation for the ever-changing challenges of the manufacturing environment.
Want to see this type of technology in action? Check out our CortexRecognition® software.
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