Automotive manufacturers face a number of current challenges, including shorter production series, lower costs, and a need for increased flexibility. But perhaps the greatest challenge is effectively implementing automated material handling solutions, especially amidst the current labor shortage faced by the industry.
Manual part picking is a labor-intensive process, resulting in high risk of worker injury due to the potential weight of each part. And human labor is expensive. As a result, repetitive manual handling is increasingly being replaced by robots. The challenge with robots, however, is that they are blind and many are not flexible enough to accommodate the ever-changing automotive production process.
With robot vision guidance systems from SICK, flexible material handling is made possible for automotive production. These customizable vision systems provide the competitive advantage many manufacturers are looking for in part localization applications.
After 25 years of launching automotive plants across the U.S., these types of innovative solutions from SICK are what drew Matt Keil, SICK Automotive Sales Manager, to join SICK in 2017. “After spending my career in automotive factories across the U.S., this is a very exciting time for me. Simple and repetitive tasks of lifting heavy parts from deep bins, conveyors, and racks has always been a primary source of long-term back injuries, accidents, and inefficiencies,” Keil says.
Part Localization for Bin Picking
SICK’s PLB is a vision system that can be used for high-precision localization of parts that are randomly oriented in bins and boxes. The vision system consists of a 3D camera, part localization software, and tools for easy integration. This is ideal for powertrain manufacturing, part suppliers, and machine loading operations in component production.
Using a high-quality 3D camera, the robot can locate the part, regardless of orientation, and provide pickup coordinates to the robot. The robot then verifies that a collision-free space is available for the gripper in reported pickup positions. This can all be done under ambient conditions while still maintaining superior image quality.
The PLB is an easy-to-use solution that makes it possible to configure new applications quickly and efficiently. In addition, it noticeably reduces the effort of analyzing and designing solutions for new applications. The software simply matches the CAD model of a part to the 3D image it takes and the part is then picked by the robot. Robot-automated part pickup eliminates the need for precise part placement in the bin or the pallet, thereby maximizing part-handling uptime.
Part Localization in Racks
The PLR is best at helping to overcome challenges around handling large, bulky stamped sheet metal parts. The parts that are to be manipulated or transported might move or shift during transport or the racks themselves can be damaged. As a result, the PLR is able to overcome these challenges and keep your production running smoothly.
Integrated via web server, the PLR has a short setup time and combines 2D and 3D machine vision technology to provide a unique solution that can provide flexible material handling, even under varying conditions. Simply install the device, connect it to the robot controller, load an existing configuration or create a new one in a few minutes, and the PLR is up and running.
Part Localization on Conveyors
In addition to the previous two applications, robot guidance systems can also be used for conveyor-picking applications. The PLOC2D is a vision system for 2D part localization. It consists of high-quality image processing hardware and is equipped with an extremely high performance localization algorithm for reliable and fast part localization.
Due to its motion synchronization, effective localization of multiple simultaneous parts, and rapid transfer of localization data to the robot, the PLOC2D is the perfect choice for conveyor picking applications. It’s also easily tailored to different parts and can be integrated into numerous robot brands and PLCs. In addition, it works well for picking from any feeders or of kitted parts.
Best of all, the sensor system is ready for measurement as soon as it’s unpacked without the expertise of a machine vision specialist. No programming knowledge is required and setup is extremely easy, following a simple configuration and parameterization process via web browser.
Industry 4.0 Ready
From the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution to now, production and assembly lines have come a long way. With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automotive manufacturers must continue to adapt assembly lines to keep up with the current wave of technology.
Robot guidance systems help bring manufacturers into the factory of the future – a place where the main asset will continue to be people. Instead, robots will be working for them, minimizing risk of worker injury and human intervention in repetitive, dangerous tasks and reducing overall manual labor costs. This leaves tasks of greater added value to the operators, saving you money and increasing product throughput.
“For years, the industry has spent millions of dollars finding new ways to present parts to aid in mundane tasks like part picking,” Keil says. “These new Robot Guidance Systems from SICK, not only solve that problem, but they are very simple to implement and the ROI is extremely short.”
Contact SICK to learn more about robot vision guidance systems.