Cobots & Machine Vision: Achieving Precision & Performance

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Machine Vision & Robotics

September 2023

August 2023

Cobots & Machine Vision: Achieving Precision & Performance

Step into a world where collaboration reaches new heights, powered by the cutting-edge technology of machine vision and robotics. Cobots1 (collaborative robots) and machine vision have emerged as dual game-changers, enabling seamless cooperation between humans and machines while enhancing accuracy, efficiency, and safety. However, choosing the right machine vision system for your collaborative applications is critical. Read ahead to unveil the essential factors to consider before purchasing a system that will unlock the true power of cobots with the help of machine vision, propelling your business to unprecedented levels of productivity and success.

Cobots are small, lower-power robots created to be aware of their surroundings and perform multiple tasks safely near human workers. They can quickly learn actions through demonstration and reinforcement learning2.

When choosing a machine vision system for a cobot-based application, here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

1. Application Requirements

Understand the specific requirements of your application, including the type of inspection or task the cobot needs to perform. Some well-suited applications for cobots and machine vision systems include pick-and-place Jobs, quality inspections, assembly, packaging, and machine tending. Additionally, the complexity and variability of the objects being handled or inspected are essential factors. Cobots and machine vision systems must be capable of accurately perceiving and adapting to objects' different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.

2. Image Quality

Cobots often work in dynamic and challenging environments where objects may have varying shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Machine vision systems must capture high-resolution images to pick up the fine details and subtle differences that enable the system to recognize and differentiate objects accurately, ensuring reliable and consistent performance.

So, what is the recommended resolution for a machine vision system being installed in a cobot? Although this varies between applications, a standard guideline is to choose a lens that can provide an image resolution at least twice the resolution of the smallest feature or defect that needs to be detected or analyzed.

3. Speed and Throughput

Speed refers to how quickly the cobot can perform its tasks, while throughput refers to the number of tasks it can complete within a given time frame. A fast cobot with high throughput is essential because it increases productivity and efficiency. For example, in manufacturing, a cobot with fast speed and high throughput can assemble products faster leading to higher production output. This increased efficiency can help companies meet customer demands and increase their profitability.

4. Integration and Compatibility

Integration refers to how well the cobot and machine vision work together as a unified system. The cobot and machine vision systems need to communicate and share information seamlessly. This allows the cobot to receive real-time data from the machine vision system, making informed decisions and performing tasks accurately. Proper integration ensures that the cobot and machine vision systems can work together efficiently, maximizing their combined capabilities. Integration and compatibility also play a role in future scalability and adaptability. Organizations may need to expand their operations or incorporate new technologies as they grow and evolve. Having integrated and compatible cobots and machine vision systems allows for easier future integration of new equipment or software.

5. Ease of Use and Programming

A user-friendly interface and controls make it easier for operators to interact with the cobot and machine vision system, reducing the learning curve and increasing productivity. This is particularly important when training new operators or tasks requiring frequent changes or adjustments.

Meanwhile, ease of programming is crucial in enabling operators to set up and program the cobot and machine vision system for specific tasks. Programming a cobot involves defining the sequence of actions and instructions it needs to perform. With an intuitive programming interface, operators can easily create, modify, and fine-tune programs without requiring extensive technical knowledge or expertise, allowing faster deployment and adaptation to changing production needs.

6. Reliability and Durability

In industrial settings, where cobots are often used for repetitive and critical tasks, reliability is crucial to ensure consistent production output and meet customer demands. A reliable cobot with a robust machine vision system minimizes the risk of errors, rework, and production delays, improving overall efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Secondly, durability is essential to ensure that the cobot and machine vision system can withstand the demands of the production environment. Industrial settings can involve harsh conditions, such as temperature variations, dust, vibrations, and impacts. A durable cobot and machine vision system can handle these challenges without compromising performance or requiring frequent repairs or replacements. Durability reduces maintenance costs, minimizes downtime, and extends the lifespan of the equipment, resulting in a higher return on investment.

7. Flexibility and Adaptability

Manufacturing environments often require frequent changes in production processes, product variations, or new product introductions. A flexible cobot with a machine vision system can easily be reprogrammed or reconfigured to accommodate these changes, allowing quick and efficient adaptation to new tasks or requirements and reduced downtime. Flexibility enables the cobot to handle different functions within the same or across various production lines.

8. Scalability and Future Expansion

Scalability and future expansion are essential not only for cost-effectiveness, but also for meeting growing production demands. As a business grows and production volumes increase, there may be a need for additional cobots and machine vision systems to handle the higher workload, and being able to easily integrate the old with the new systems will save a company a big headache later. Additionally, scalability allows for the efficient allocation of resources based on specific production requirements.

9. Vendor Support and Service

Vendor support and service are crucial in every industry, especially in using cobots with machine vision systems. Cobots provide technical expertise, training/knowledge transfer, system optimization and updates, spare parts and repairs, warranty coverage and extended support, and assistance with system integration. With access to vendor support, businesses can ensure optimal performance, reliability, and longevity of their automation systems, minimizing downtime and maximizing productivity.

10. Cost and Return on Investment (ROI)

Here’s the big one every business owner and decision-maker is looking for. It is crucial to consider the overall cost of the machine vision system, including hardware, software, installation, and maintenance.  Evaluating the initial investment, labor cost savings, increased productivity, quality improvements, flexibility, and maintenance costs, and conducting a comprehensive ROI calculation help businesses make informed decisions about implementing automation and assess the financial benefits it can bring. Cobots aren’t cheap, so using cheap and flimsy machine vision systems can make or break your investment. In the same breath, using quality machine vision lenses can exponentially increase the ROI on robotics.

Considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when choosing a machine vision system for your cobot-based application. Choosing the right machine vision system for collaborative applications requires careful evaluation of several factors. By considering these factors, you can select a machine vision system that enhances collaboration and improves productivity and efficiency in your operations.

When setting up your automated vision system, the lens may be one of the last components you choose. However, once your system is up and running, your data flows from the lens first. That makes choosing a lens one of the most impactful decisions affecting how well your vision system works.

The concern here is image resolution. A higher resolution lens gives you greater specificity in designing and implementing the most efficient vision solutions.

Don’t let the lens be the weak link in your MV system. Choosing a great lens tailored to your system’s needs can be daunting, but that's what we’re here for. Talk to a lens specialist at Computar today and find out how we can assist in selecting the correct lens for you.