A recent development is the requirement for automated systems more and more to work in less structured environments. In the last 20 years, most of the 'easy' manufacturing tasks have largely been automated, so leaving the more difficult ones where there is still a manual component as part of a cost effective solution.

We are now tackling these more difficult tasks that require the "newer" technologies to take over the erstwhile manual roles, so to cope with less structured inputs and to provide Quality Control of the output. As a result, some 70% of our installed Systems in the last 5 years have featured intelligent sensing functions and automated QC capability. Vision Systems have featured prominently in these Systems.

Applied Robotics has been a pioneer in applying Vision Systems to industrial applications.

As early as 1985 we produced prototype Vision System algorithms that will recognize pattern repeats in stretchy substrates such as strips of lace. We released at a 1987 Industry Exibition a robot cell wherein a Vision System “found” randomly tossed workpieces on a table and instructed a robot to pick it up and tidily stacked them. In a 1990 technology demonstration workcell our Vision System could “see” the curl of a green prawn and told a robot how much to curl its own gripper to match the prawn’s curl, to effect a pickup.

In 1991 we installed our first production machine with a Vision System at Buderim Ginger Ltd, for ginger pieces sortation according to shape and size. This 45 pieces a second machine was the fastest in the world at the time, and maybe the first production Vision System in Australia.

Some more recent and interesting installed System incorporating machine Vision Systems are described in the following sections.

  • Vision System based machine that automatically identifies and sorts clothes hangers at the rate of 10,000 per hour. This machine is used by Cork International to recycle clothes hangers. It was a world first in 1991.
  • Vision System and laser line generators to performs non-destructive, on the fly, sectional measurements and QC on the two edge profiles of plasterboard stream in continuous flow. A set of cross-sections are measured every 25mm along the plasterboard stream travelling at some 750mm per second
  • Robot based blow moulded plastics bottle packaging cell employs Vision System to read and check labels are correctly placed and that they are the correct label for that bottle ( front & back).
  • Robot based Assay Workcell employs a high-end Vision System for fine colour variations in treated biological samples for bowel cnacer screening tests. Collaborated with CSIRO on high-end Vision module for ENTERIX Australia.
  • Vision System to assist parts Assembly by “looking for” the position of low tolerance features. At James Hardie Industries, a Vision System was used to find the position of a slot into which we assembled a sliding fit extruded plastic strip. At Dux Hot Water, a Vision System is used to find and guide an Assembly Robot and a Welding Robot to respectively place and weld parts to position variable features on a pressed steel dome.
  • Vision System to provide “hand-eye” coordination for a robot to load articles on a moving overhead chain. For Luxfer Aluminium Gas Cylinders we developed a robot based systems that employs a Vision System to “see and measure” offset distances between the article ( the gas cylinder being held by the robot) and its destination ( the moving hook on the paintline chain), and instructs the robot to complete the hanging process. This world first solution was exported last year to the USA.