Robot applications that need a vision system

Vision-guided robots (VGRs) open up entirely new possibilities in manufacturing and industrial automation, but some applications benefit more from their presence than others.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) September 21, 2017

Vision-guided robots (VGRs) open up entirely new possibilities in manufacturing and industrial automation. VGRs have functionality that their “blind” counterparts do not, but investing in a vision system for robots is a big decision.

If you don’t have a vision system when you need one, it will lead to constant failures on the part of the robot. This creates unnecessary downtime, which quickly raises operating costs, and requires regular human intervention.

On the other hand, having a vision system when it isn’t needed is expensive. Vision and robotic systems, when integrated, make a powerful combination. While not all applications need it, there are a few that call for VGRs.

Flexible functionality

When robots need to perform several different functions, vision systems will be necessary. For example, if a material handling robot has to pick up parts of different sizes in the same batch, it will require vision to do this. Same goes for robots that must determine part locations. Essentially, any application where location, size and function isn’t fixed will require a vision system.

Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaLittle operator oversight

As mentioned, robots without vision systems that must perform flexible functions will constantly fail and require operator intervention. If your production operations won’t allow for regular operator oversight, your robotic system will need a vision system.

Collaborative work

At the same time, if robots need to work alongside human workers, then a vision system is often necessary for safety reasons. Collaborative robots, or ‘cobots’, are built to safely work with humans and often require vision systems to identify nearby humans and turn off or slow down to avoid injury.

Vision systems are becoming more and more common in robotic systems. VGRs have significantly more functionality than “blind” robots and can automate more than one task. While vision systems can be a big investment, often times they’re required for your application.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online Blog. Robotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). A3 is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.