Throughout the years, robots have taken their place throughout manufacturing industries. As the push to enhance productivity and improve accuracy grows, so does the need to develop new technology to aid robots' pinpoint precision.
What is the best way to do that? Give them the ability to see.
Cognex developed this technology in the 1980s and 1990s -- a group of algorithms paired with a camera that determines whether or not each piece that the robot interacts with looks the way it is supposed to look.
Granted, robot vision is not "seeing" as you and I see. Instead, it is a series of pictures that match up to an already programmed algorithm to play the manufacturing game of "which of these things is not like the other."
Let me give you an example of this: Let's say a robot is programmed to pick up apples and put them in one bin, pick up carrots and put them in another bin. The pictures taken from the robot's "vision" help it to determine which bin the piece goes into. Also, if something else, like a pineapple, is on the conveyor, the vision technology will not convey any information to the robot, and the robot will not interact with that particular piece of produce.
That is why vision is so important. Instead of running one of the same thing over and over again before starting another product, all the products can be dumped on a conveyor together and the robots can sort them out. Most of this technology is used in material handling, material removal applications and quality control where standardization and repeatability are so important.
There are also non-robotic uses for vision, like placing a standalone camera at certain places on the line so quality control standards can be established. This vision application can also detect if the robot on the line is not performing correctly and alert those in charge of the robot about the problem.
RobotWorx, an integrator of FANUC, Motoman and KUKA robots, can design and outfit almost any robot or application process with vision, depending on the needs of the consumer. The company works with products like Cognex and FANUC Visloc. RobotWorx engineers will help the customer with lighting, lensing and placement choices.