Automated Bin Picking ~Plug & Play Robot Vision
By ANDREW MASON, Automation Sales Manager, RARUK Automation
Bin picking has long-been deemed a black art, with its success influenced by a myriad of variable factors, including changes in ambient light. However, in the past 3-4 years, advances in machine vision and its associated software tools have signalled significant strides in 3D bin-picking technology.
Many industries require fast, reliable and flexible solutions in automation to cope with ever-growing demands for greater productivity and on-time delivery. To help automate this type of work in a reliable yet flexible way, a recent development at Pick-it, a leading specialist in 3D cameras and software for robotic bin picking, is the introduction of HD technology. Pick-it M-HD is purpose-designed to simplify projects for both integrators and end users. This off-the-shelf, plug-and-play solution comprises a high-resolution 3D camera with user-friendly Pick-it 3D vision software pre-installed on a powerful industrial processor, along with all the necessary tools to get users started.
Software is another key area of development. 2020 has re-emphasised the need for automation in manufacturing processes as industries worldwide continue grappling with the effects of a pandemic. To help end users with their automation goals, Pick-it has a new software update with more essential features for bin picking.
Among the advances in Pick-it Software release 2.3 is flat object detection. Flat objects are different from other 3D shapes in the sense that edges are the main source of shape information. Release 2.3 enables Pick-it Teach to detect flat objects more reliably by focusing on shape edges.
The latest software also makes it possible to filter parts of the image that are unrequired or may cause confusion. For instance, if the task is to pick products wrapped in cellophane or polythene, it is possible to filter this plastic packaging from the image as it can sometimes hang off and confuse the shape sought by the camera.
Historically, automation engineers have found it difficult to understand which types of applications are most suitable for robotic bin-picking. Furthermore, there has been no complete solution available, meaning companies have had to work with different suppliers for their application. With this in mind, Pick-it has just entered a partnership with cobot application specialist Robotiq to develop the Robotiq Bin Picking Kit. Compatible with Universal Robots, the kit comprises the Pick-it M-HD camera and software, Robotiq’s CoPilot software, and its electrical gripper with integrated EPick vacuum generator (plus extension kit). The kit enables rapid object detection and picking for both flat and cylindrical parts.
Presenting an alternative approach is the Flexibowl feeding system, where parts are placed in a hopper rather than a bin and fed on to a flat surface that creates an environment more akin to 2D. Using Flexibowl can simplify the application and make it ideal for a SCARA pick and place robot such as those offered by Shibaura, view video example here