Automated picking & placing of heavy, shiny baskets filled with metal parts
In a special project for the automotive industry we were faced with a challenge – to recognize, locate and pick shiny baskets filled with metal machined parts and to place them onto a conveyor belt. This action was predominantly done by human operators but our customer decided to automate the workstation.
However, there was a catch in the proposal – the customer requested a collaborative solution. The baskets filled with metal objects was such a heavy load that it was impossible to recommend conventional collaborative robots.
An alternative strategy was thus created. Utilizing the latest technology, it was possible to transform large industrial robots into collaborative ones.
This meant that the operator just had to place stacks of baskets placed on rollers into rails under the scanner, in the robot area with no fences. Safety scanners were used to determine whether the operator was in the area to reduce the robot speed. A standard (non – collaborative) robot was equipped with special technology that enables the robot to detect collisions and stop immediately if such situations occur.
After placing input stacks into the rails, the corresponding Photoneo Scanner triggered a scan and Photoneo Locator determined the position of the highest basket in the stack and then sent the coordinates to the robot. The robot picked the part from the input stack and placed it on the input conveyor. In the next step, the robot picked the washed basket from the output conveyor and placed it onto a previously localized roller in the output stack.
The customer decided that using competitors’ 2D solutions did not bring the required results (in terms of precision in the Z direction and determination of the object orientation). We therefore integrated the PhoXi 3D Scanner, that was able to tackle the challenge. This allowed us to determine the basket and object position and send its coordinates to the robot. An important part was also determination of the stack height or detection of an empty basket. This information was used to give the operator the information when to place a new stack or pull out the processed one.
All in all, this successful application of 3D vision technology opens up endless possibilities for production factories all around the world.