iRob Feeder: Profitable Production for Small Batch Sizes Down to 1

iRob Feeder: complete solution for individual robotic bin picking
(PresseBox) ( Steyr-Gleink, Austria, )
iRob Feeder, developed in a partnership between PROFACTOR and IH Tech, is a compact complete solution for individual robotic bin picking. The system recognises different work-pieces in different positions, grasps and positions them correctly for further processing. iRob Feeder features a full-processing chain from 3D sensor scanning to automatic robot program execution. Additionally, the system offers a flexible system use, short break-even time and compact construction. The essential benefit of this industrial solution is that individual parts no longer have to be supplied correctly sorted to the system. Companies save time-consuming preparation of parts and workspace as the system recognises the 3D position of the work-piece even in non-standard environments. iRob Feeder is easy to integrate and expandable independent of the process or the product.

System Reconfiguration in the Shortest Possible Time Using 3D object recognition the image of the current situation is analysed. This data is forwarded to the robot, which processes all the important information. The robot calculates which part to work with and the orientation of this work-piece. Additionally, it plans the path for grasping the work-piece. Finally, the robot grasps the part and places it in the right position for further processing. The system adapts to new surrounding conditions in the shortest possible time and reconfigures itself to be able to handle new parts. Summarising, the robot is capable of programming itself.

Industrial solution for random bin picking The actual innovation of iRob Feeder is the complete system, i.e. the interplay of 3D image processing, a self-programming robot and a distributed control concept. Since the desire for compatibility is very high in the requirements profile of the industry, this new development - both from hardware and software side - can be integrated quickly and without any major conversion measures into existing systems. As an additional result, downtime is reduced to a minimum.

The Technology Behind iRob Feeder

* Robust 3D object recognition and dynamic work cell modelling:
The robot must suitably perceive and interpret its surroundings for autonomous execution of tasks as well as to learn activities, based on the input from the operator. An important aspect is the integration of 3D image processing with the respective object recognition.

* Real-time compatible and adaptive handling planning:
The system automatically creates a collision-free trajectory plan for picking the unprepared or non-isolated parts using an online connection. iRob Feeder knows how to grasp the work-pieces and avoids obstacles.

* Real-time compatible and reactive downstream process planning:
Based on the expert knowledge transfered from the user, downstream processes and further processing are planned for the identified and localised parts. By incorporating different sensor signals, the system can react online to discrepancies in the model of the surroundings and accordingly adapt the manipulation process.

* Combining autonomous and user-guided operation:
The combination of autonomous and user-guided operation is an important aspect of the robotic system. If the robot cannot process the current task, it switches to manual operation. The input from the remote operator is recorded and learned by the system for later processing of the same task. In autonomous mode, the robot controller has all the knowledge and skills necessary for processing the task. Although, in semiautomatic mode, the robot has the required skills to complete the task, input is required for support through the "expert interface".

The Benefits of iRob Feeder

* Profitable production:
Reduction of costs is accomplished due to innovative industrial solution focusing on processes involving large, bulky and often rotationally symmetric parts. Batch sizes can be reduced down to lot size 1. Work-pieces used to be transported manually in the past, whereas now it is possible to accomplish this task by robotic applications. The instant results are higher product quality and a decrease of the human workload.

* Manufacture of product variations:
On one hand, iRob Feeder makes product individualisation possible, and on the other hand, mass production that is individualised for customers. Measures to increase quality can be carried out faster and cheaper.

* Reduction of scheduled production downtimes:
A distributed control concept enables quick and easy integration in a production system.

* Cost savings in the area of software adaptation:
Per person and day, high costs have to be calculated for programming robots or automation equipment. In the area of industrial robots, iRob Feeder can reduce this expense by nearly 90 percent.
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