Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Robot primer

Robots and vision systems go together like strawberries and cream, so today I’m going to deviate from my strict focus on machine vision by directing you to what I found a useful primer on the different types of robot available. This is “Robotic Automation for Solar Cell Manufacturing,” found in the June 2010 edition of Photonics Spectra. (Yes, that’s the same issue I was reading yesterday. I had a long flight.)

The article is written by Rush LaSelle of Adept Technology (www.adept.com ) but it struck me as a very balanced summary of the different options available.

Rush describes these as Cartesian (your basic X, Y, Z translation,) SCARA, articulated (the type most of us picture when we talk about robots,) and the most recent evolution of the species, the delta or parallel kinematic robot. If you’ve never seen one of these latter beasts at work, you’ve missed a treat. You can probably find a few movies on YouTube; just search for “Quattro,” the Adept delta robot, or “Flexpicker,” the competing product from ABB.

Vision guidance is being used in more and more robot applications, but the area in which it seems to make most is those involving delta robots. These are used chiefly for picking randomly placed parts from a fast-moving conveyor and I don’t know how the task would be done without vision.

If you work in machine vision, and especially if you’re at the sharp (application engineering,) end of the business, it would be prudent to understand the merits of the different technologies, so use the link I gave you.

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