A 3D structured-light imaging system creates the human-like capabilities deployed in the design of a Robomotive humanoid robot jointly developed by Yaskawa Motoman, Beltech, and Robotiq. The so-called eyes of the system make it possible to identify a product and its surroundings (packaging or a pallet) and determine the product's orientation within the 3D space.
In integrating humanoid adaptive servo-grippers with 3D vision and smart software, the goal for the design is a new generation of robots that can lower tooling costs over conventional systems.
The Robomotive design includes humanoid adaptive servo-grippers, integrated 3D vision, and smart software. The goal is to save on the tooling costs compared with using conventional systems. (Source: Robomotive BV)
The human-like arms and grippers use common controls to work together or independently. For example, each arm lift a different product, and the arms can work together to assemble them. A seven-axis design (as opposed to the typical six-axis design) provides the flexibility to work with objects of different sizes.
An interesting aspect of this system is its targeting of factory automation applications. Potential uses include small bin picking setups where parts are constantly changing and robotic solutions would have been ruled out in the past. The system has already been deployed in small batch automation processes with large mix of parts, and tasks normally accomplished using manual labor. Applications where the humanoid robot excels include tasks where there is advantage of the two arms working in tandem, or if it is difficult for a one-armed robot to accomplish the motions in a limited working area.
A key technological advantage of this system, according to its makers, is that users don't need to spend time or money changing the hardware environment; the Robomotive can be placed in a workstation and trained to do the task a human would do. The user can load a lot of programs, so tasks can be switched easily and quickly.
This humanoid robot (featured in the Robomotive video below) highlights how this technology is being adapted to industrial environments. The ability to use 3D vision and coordinate two independent arms opens up new possibilities for automating repetitive manual tasks.
Interesting post, Al. I just wrote about the increased use of 3D technology in the manufacturing space that's allowing for the type of advanced automation highlighted in this video. It's really making the process more efficient and cost-effective and, according to the systems integrator I spoke with, could help bring some of the manufacturing that's gone offshore back to N. America.
Good point on brining back offshored manufacturing, Elizabeth. You add the efficiency and optimization of the new technology to the fact that logistics costs are growing and labor costs in Asia are growing, and you have a recipe for re-shoring.
Yes, that is the point this systems integrator was making. It all sounds really promising and if U.S. manufacturers can begin to adopt these technologies sooner rather than later, production will come back onshore even faster.
Elizabeth, surely the introduction of robots will make the labor cost drop to a large extent but its actually not the labor cost that is the problem. Its actually the rate of production of the products. A company would prefer China even if the labor cost is not low. Its because China provides a huge amount of work force that are dedicated towards the mass production of the products. Relatively, USA lags behind in terms of work force, because the people count is way low as compared to China.
So then would robotic automation help improve this situation in the U.S., talmoortariq? If products could be made at a faster rate not by adding people but by adding better processes, it could potentially make the U.S. more competitive to places like China, no?
In terms of rate of productions, we can definitely hope the best from the robots. Because, otherwise we cannot match the production rate of the Asian countries. Just an example of Apple assembly line in China, It hires 230,000 employees. We cannot match that by just the human work force at all.
Thanks for your viewpoint. Also, I didn't know Baxter used open source software: I'll need to investigate this development method further. I know Rodney Brooks is an advocate for the Maker Movement and could be the reason for using open source software with Baxter. Oh, I just realized, Rodney's use of open source software could be from his MIT research days with cognitive based robots like Cog and Kismet
mrdon, open source software is a major aspect of Baxter and how it's been designed to be different from other industrial robots, as we covered here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=259420 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=263186
Thanks for the clarifying the Open Source question I had about Baxter. I'm quite fascinated by this technology and how its becoming more main stream in small tech businesses and major corporations. Thanks for the additional links related to this topic.
Pretty impressive robot per the video. Just wondering how the operator would program the robot. With Baxter, it seems the robot programming is based recording the assembly process by moving the bot's arm to the respective work stage areas. Good article and video!
mrdon, Not sure about the programming tools used with the Robomotive. May need to get further into the development to see user tools. Unlikely that it will be similar to Baxter's approach, but many robots do teach positions as part of the programming effort.
Yes I agree, many robots come with the inbuilt feature of being prgrammed through teaching pendant(controller), its a pretty basic thing, because not everyone can program these robots and the coding is pretty complex as well. So I guess, it also must have a learning mode as well.
I agree. Although programming robots uses a teach positioning technique, I think what makes Baxter different from other robotic units is the teaching pendant is on the unit itself (the arm) instead of an external handheld device.
Really impressive, utilizing 3D mapping to obtain the co ordinates of the parts is a really effective technique. Specially the precision with which the robots are working and utilizing the adaptive control and co ordination of the robotic arms is really amazing. It appears that the industries that are presently automated by one armed robots might see a potential future in this advanced technology as well.
Just noticing that a lot of these systems are just being employed doing simple pick and place and as such could be reduced to a mere 2-3 axes and cost reduced even further. The key in this robots flexibility is then reduced to the adaptive nature of gripper assembly. Robotiq got this right. Baxter is first and foremost a collaborative robot and is designed to work side by side, if not even interact with humans in the same environment, hence it's compliant spring loaded joints with load cells.
Interesting post, Al. The way the different technologies are combined is really interesting especially at the industrial side of robotics. After watching the video I feel these robots have movements similar to humans.