Using a robot arm for lightbox visual inspections has simplified production for one visual inspection systems manufacturer. Highlighted at PackExpo last November, Universal Robots’ collaborative robot—or cobot— is automating parts inspection for one of its preferred system integrators, HNJ Solutions. Its Automated Cosmetic Inspection system integrates automated pick-and-place with quality inspection of high volume production.
In this UR cobot design, the robot has a camera mounted on the end of arm but also presents the component to cameras in a lightbox, which reduces time for an operator who would normally do a manual inspection.
According to Greg McEntyre, President of HNJ Solutions, this particular Automated Cosmetic Inspection system provides full six-sided inspection of electronic devices.
“Normally, somebody’s having to manipulate this thing through structured lighting, and the instructions are at 18-24 inches, hold it this way at this angle to this light and if you see a problem, there’s a defect,” McEntyre said. “Well, to 10 different people that’s 10 different results, so what we’ve done is we’ve built an entire lightbox around the robot to homogenize the lighting and the positioning and now everything is handled by the robot. So within 30 seconds we can perform the same inspection with more consistent quality than a person can do in about a minute and a half.”
In addition, this design helps with production because a manual inspection requires the operator to assemble a piece, inspect it, then move on to another piece. With this design, an operator can build the next piece while the robot inspects the first one. And because it’s a collaborative robot, it’s safe, McEntyre said. “This is a loading zone and if I get in the way of the robot, I am not going to get damaged by the robot, which is why I chose this particular system,” he said.
Having a built-in safety system that enables a robot to stop operating if it comes into contact with an employee has long been the defining feature of collaborative robots. Universal Robots has expanded the term “collaborative” to include user-friendliness, re-deployability and simple setup.
“In short we bring part of the quality lab to the production floor. Our Automated Cosmetic Inspection systems don’t blink, don’t have a sick day, and they provide companies with consistent results,” McEntyre, added. “The Universal Robot arms provide a means to keep the inspection flexible; customers can add new products to the system as needed and the arm can articulate through just about any product orientation requirement. The collaborative nature of the arm itself allows us to reach outside the machine environment and automatically handle components that are located near production line personnel.”
Whether it is adjusting to seasonal lines, or to variations in co-packing lines, employees can teach the robot new moves as production schedules change. Using the teach pendant and moving the robotic arm, human coworkers simply change the movements of the UR robot without having to code or reprogram.
“We see a collaborative robot as a tool on demand as needed – one that can quickly be changed between packaging tasks to streamline production planning. Flexibility in manufacturing involves the ability to deal with variation in volumes, design and material handling as well as variations in the process sequences,” said Douglas Peterson, General Manager of Universal Robots’ Americas Division.
Unlike investments in traditional robotic cells that are caged, pre-programmed and designed for a single purpose, the multi-purpose UR robot offers a lower threshold for investment and offers more possibilities over the life of the investment. The robot arms can be plugged directly into a wall outlet and are so easy to program and set up that the typical “out of box experience” is less than an hour.