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
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.