Sensors, Vision

3-D machine vision for safer collaborative robot automation

3-D machine vision lets a robot sense, process information and mimic the way two humans adjust to working around each other.
By AIA August 13, 2019
Courtesy: CFE Media

3-D machine vision is making it safer for humans and collaborative robots to work together. Machine vision lets a robot sense the world, process the information, and mimic the way two humans can intuitively adjust to working around each other.

Collaborative robot safety systems development

The first class of collaborative robots sense human contact and stop to avoid harm to human collaborators. This method is effective in many applications, but it’s a crude solution. A sophisticated 3-D machine vision system lets a robot stop moving before hitting a human worker. In order to be effective, this system must detect, map, classify, and predict trajectory quickly.

2-D LIDAR lets robots “see” their environments, but they don’t provide the richness of data that 3D machine vision has to offer. A 2-D LIDAR setup may stop for movement several meters away, in case the person unexpectedly stretches out an arm that could come in contact with the robot, but a 3D system could operate until the person actually stretches out their arm toward the robot.

3-D machine vision meets a new standard

A 3-D sensing system is being developed that implements the speed and separation monitoring standard (SSM from ISO 10218 and ISO/TS 15066). To meet this standard, systems must be able to see and identify humans, and then stop the movement of the robot before hitting the person.

The 3-D machine vision system is able to perceive the state of the environment at 30 frames per second. The system determines all possible future states of the collaborative robot’s space and also is able to predict if undetected items may be present and monitor for potentially unsafe conditions.

Once the system identifies the protective separation distance has been violated, it then communicates with the collaborative robot’s control system to slow or stop the robot before it comes in contact with anything that it shouldn’t, including humans. Thanks to this technology, robots can work is close proximity to humans, even when the machine operates at speed and force levels that could be harmful.

This article originally appeared in Vision Online. AIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


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