Why bin picking is one of the most difficult vision system tasks (and how to overcome it!).

Autonomous bin picking, or the robotic selection of objects with random poses from a bin, is one of the most common robotic tasks, but it also poses some of the most difficult technological challenges. To be able to localise each part in a bin, navigate to it without colliding with its environment or other parts, pick it, and safely place it in another location in an aligned position – a robot must be equipped with exceptional vision and robotic intelligence.

Normally the 3D vision system scanner is mounted in a fixed, stationary position in the robotic cell, usually above and in-line with the bin. The scanner must not be moved in relation to the robot after the system has been calibrated. As a general rule of thumb, the more room is required for the bin picking application – including the space for robot movement, the size of the bin and parts, etc. – the larger model of the machine vision scanner required. So more resolution and pixels equates in simple terms to more precision and accuracy.

Calibration is completed with any suitable ball attached to the endpoint of the robotic arm or to the gripper. The ball needs to be made of a material that is appropriate for scanning, which means it needs to be smooth and not too reflective.

One of the problems with this approach is that the 3D vision system itself could cast a shadow on the bin and inhibit a high-quality acquisition of the scene. This problem is usually solved by making a compromise and finding the most optimal position for the scanner in relation to the bin or by manually rearranging the parts within the bin so that the vision system captures them all in the end. But is there another way?

A way to overcome this is to mount the 3D vision system on the robot itself. Of course, there are certain prerequisites to this approach (i.e. the robot can cope with the additional weight, there is room for mounting and there is cycle time available for movement), but there is some functional advantages to this approach.

For a successful calibration, the scanner must be mounted behind the very last joint (e.g. on the gripper). Any changes made to the scanner’s position after the calibration renders the calibration matrix invalid and the whole calibration procedure must be carried out again. This sort of calibration is done with a marker pattern – a flat sheet of paper (or another material) with a special pattern recognized the 3D vision system.

So what are the advantages? Well, you can’t scan your large bin with a smaller (and so lower cost) vision system scanner, because your scanner is mounted above it and its view is fixed. A small scanner mounted directly on the robotic arm allows you to get closer to the bin and choose which part of it to scan, thus potentially saving costs and helping with resolution.

Robotic mounted bin picking may also eradicate the need to darken the room where the robotic cell is located. The ambient light coming from a skylight might pose serious challenges to the deployed 3D vision system. A scanner attached to the robot can make scans of a bin from one side first and then from another, minimising the need to make any unusual adjustments to the environment.

It can also happen that the 3D vision system itself casts shadows on the bin and inhibits a high-quality acquisition of the scene. This problem is usually solved by making a compromise and finding the most optimal position for the scanner in relation to the bin or by manually rearranging the parts within the bin so that the vision system captures them all in the end. Robot mounted picking eliminates this problem as it enables the scanner to “look” at the scene from any angle and from any position.

In conclusion, there are many approaches to automated bin picking using 3D vision systems, each with their own unique approaches dependent on the environment, industrial automation needs, cost and the cycle time available for picking.

IVS featured in “Robots and Production” Magazine in Germany

An article by Christian Demant, Director of IVS, has appeared in the leading German manufacturing technology magazine, “Robots and Production” (www.robotik-produktion.de/). The article reports on the standards and risk assessments carried out by IVS with regard to installation of vision systems onto robots. The latest IVS-RICi Robot Inspection Cells are included in the article, included highlights relating to a recent machine sold to a major automotive manufacturer. IVS continue to develop state-of-the-art machine vision cameras, systems and machines for use in multi-robot inspection cells.

A copy of the article (in german language), can be found here:
www.robotik-produktion.de/fachartikel/roboter-duo-prueft-achsen/

Many UK workers unconcerned about robots taking their jobs

However, findings reveal some misconceptions about the productive role robots can play in the workplace

A survey of over 2,000 UK workers has shown that many are unconcerned about the impact new technology may have on their current job roles. The research, conducted by Industrial Vision Systems (IVS), a supplier of machine vision solutions to industry, found that 39 percent would be happy if a factory used artificial intelligence robots to make decisions on quality control and a further 10 percent would be very happy.

However, in contrast, the research also found some stark misconceptions about the impact robots and artificial intelligence can have in aiding productivity in the workplace. A quarter of employees (25 percent) stated that if they had a robot colleague assisting them at work, they would feel threatened that they might take their job. 22 percent also said that they would be sad that it’s potentially one less person to talk to in the workplace and another 18 percent said that they would be afraid the robot would make a mistake.

In comparison, just 11 percent said that they were confident that the job would be done well if they had a robot colleague assisting them at work, and 13 percent were generally happy with the thought.

IVS provides vision systems for robots which enable companies to enhance their productivity by utilising robots to assist human workers with inspection processes. This relieves the human worker from what you may call more commonplace work, which means they are then deployed to higher value tasks within the workplace. In the future, production inspection will include space for an operator and a robot to work in partnership as part of the quality control process of manufacturing.

Considering the survey findings, IVS believes that working with collaborative robots has the added advantage of working safely and efficiently in workspaces currently occupied by humans and that the current misconception of working with vision enabled robots could hinder productivity levels in various sectors and industries.

Industrial Vision Systems Provides Vision Systems For Collaborative Robots To Aid Productivity

Industrial Vision Systems Ltd (IVS) is now providing vision systems for collaborative robots enhancing its productivity. This new generation of affordable lightweight robots is unlocking new markets and applications as they work side by side with human workers, increasing labour and total factor productivity and eliminating the need for costly precision fixtures allowing different parts to be processed and inspected without changing tools.

Robot Vision Set-Up

By using UR3, UR5, and UR10 model robots from Denmark’s Universal Robots, one of the earliest manufacturers of co-bots, IVS, whose vision systems can be integrated with all major robot manufacturers and control systems, utilises the robots for the inspection of complex components as well as providing positioning feedback to the robot. The UR3 is a smaller table-top robot that can be used to provide camera inspection on multiple sides of complex parts and components, allowing precision automated inspection.

IVS is also using the robots to help assist human workers with inspection processes, which relieves them of more commonplace work meaning they are typically redeployed to higher value tasks that robots cannot do. In the future inspection benches will include space for an operator and a robot to work in partnership as part of the quality control process of production.

Robot Vision System