Cognex state-of-the-art vision technology enables robots to see

06 Nov 2020

Cognex, the market leader in industrial image processing, has provided has combined its state-of-the-art advanced vision technology with a dual-arm collaborative ABB robot to enable Germany-based Glaub Automation & Engineering to automate the last step of its printed circuit board assembly.

Prior to the installation, which involves the mounting of wired components such as capacitors, power coils and connectors using through-hole-technology (THT), it had been a manual process for the 41-year-old automation and engineering company.

The dual arm cobot is provided with blister packs with capacitors, for example, via a conveyor line. It then grips one capacitor after another from the blister pack and places it precisely on the printed circuit board. Alternatively, it can also remove the electronic components from an ESD container or a vibratory conveyor. This is immediately followed by soldering from below.

Targeted bin picking

Until recently, robotics was unable to cope with either the high variability in the component feeding or the slight inaccuracies in positioning the components. The few previous robotic solutions were extremely complex, elaborate in terms of programming, and not particularly reliable in practice.

However, Glaub’s new robot cell uses smart cameras for the first time, boasting state-of-the-art image processing technology from Cognex. The position of the components in the blister packs is detected using 3D surface sensors, which also enables targeted picking from the bin or the vibratory conveyor, to then further measure the capacitors and printed circuit boards with the help of 2D cameras.

A smart combination of robotics and 2D & 3D image processing

Cognex's solutions partner, M-VIS, developed a solution with eight cameras that both capture the data matrix codes on the blister packs and precisely measure and locate each individual component.

An In-Sight 7802M vision system measures the parts and provides the necessary information to correct the position of the gripper. A further system from the In-Sight 9912M series measures the circuit board and if necessary corrects the gripper's movement when it is placing the component on the board.

The 3D area-scan camera 3D-A5060, with patent-pending 3D LightBurst technology and integrated VisionPro image processing software, “sees” the position of parts in the feed line. In each process step, the cameras capture the actual position of the component, the gripper, and the circuit board in relation to the electronic component.

Since the movements are controlled based on cameras, the operators can generate a new placement model without programming. The camera images produced serve as a basis for this. This simplifies and accelerates not only assembly but also conversion.

Short-cycle time, rapid payback

ABB YuMi's two arms work simultaneously round the clock with a very short cycle time of under three seconds depending on the components and the feed. The payback period is also impressive, coming to around 14 months from GL-THTeasy's first use.

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