Photoneo, experts in 3D camera technology, have invested heavily to push their automated bin picking solution to completely new realms. Julie Busby talks us through Automated Bin Picking, and how to get the most from this new technology.
What are some of the challenges faced in bin picking applications?
The nature of bin picking generally means the image is cluttered, meaning there are lots of items randomly placed and orientated, often semi-occluded and at varying distances from the robot arm. The challenge is to image the scene in 3D with enough detail so the robot can be guided to accurately pick an item from the bin and place/orientate it correctly for the next step of the process. Bin picking is particularly tough when there is a large size bin filled with many small objects. The material of which the object is made up from (metal, plastic, composites) can provide a big challenge to a vision system and so a robust solution requires a camera with 3D technology that is capable of creating 3D data from a wide range of materials.
Another important consideration is path-planning and collision avoidance which ensures the robot is moving safely in the available free space and is not causing any physical damage. Efficient path planning also helps to increase the speed of the picking operation and therefore improve productivity.
Photoneo offers a solution to these challenges by combining its 3D camera solutions with its Bin Picking Studio software.
What role does the camera technology play?
The Photoneo Phoxi 3D scanner, is at the heart of the Photoneo’s Bin Picking Studio solution. Phoxi is capable of creating very dense point cloud, 3D data sets, on a wide range of object types and object sizes. It achieves this by using a laser light pattern projector that emits a set of coding patterns on to the target scene, which are interpreted and used to reconstruct a point cloud. This data is then used by the software for 3D object matching and provides accurate pose information that is then used to control the robot for the pick and place operation. The 3D scanners are carefully calibrated for the entire scanning range and the carbon body ensures minimal thermal expansion. The Phoxi is available in five different size, to accommodate a wide range of scan volumes from 120 x 80 x 20mm to 2300 x 1600 x 1300mm. It has an extended depth of field which makes it easy to scan the entire volume of a gitterbox (commonly used heavy-duty object carrier box) and is also resistance to ambient light, maintaining accurate data even in varying ‘daylight’ conditions. Combine these features and you have a robust, repeatable solution for even the most demand bin picking applications.
And what advantages does the software offer?
Bin Picking Studio, is a software solution by Photoneo that works with the Phoxi 3D scanners. It supports and includes a large database of robots from many manufacturers, such as ABB, Kuka, Yashkawa, Fanuc, UR and so on, with full kinematic models of 100+ robot manipulators. The software has been designed with ease of use in mind and guides the user through the 7 main steps required to create a bin-picking solution; 1) Select the robot 2) Upload a CAD of the gripper 3) Load the CAD model of the object to be picked 4) Use powerful visualisation tools to select the gripper and object points 5) Create the picking environment and path planning 6) Robot/camera calibration and finally 7) Interactive debugging.
Calibration has always been a time consuming exercise and often seen as a ‘black art’ but with Photoneo’s Bin Picking Studio you no longer need expensive and specific objects or specially prepared calibration sheets. One round object in the shape of a sphere is enough. Calibrate and synchronise your scanner and robot via the intuitive guided program. You will immediately receive visual feedback that you are able to validate and evaluate throughout the entire calibration.
So with an integrated solution with the capabilities of Bin Picking Studio, what are the benefits to the end-user in their applications?
Many bin picking applications are very slow or still performed manually as the objects being picked are complex, too varied or difficult to image successfully for an automated solution. Until now! The implementation of Bin Picking Studio is solving more applications, leading to a reduction in manufacturing faults, increased production and efficiency, with lower costs and safer working conditions.
Robotics and automation are critical for the UK’s manufacturing sector if the country is to succeed post-Brexit and something Multipix Imaging feel passionate about. To assist companies in implementing this technology, Multipix Imaging offers training to all its Bin Picking Studio customers. The company has also recently extended the in-house vision workshop, which now includes a robot for improved support, hands-on training and application evaluation. You don’t have to be a customer to benefit; Multipix is keen to explain the technology to all companies interested in learning more about automated machine vision and the advantages it offers.