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Bright Lights, Big Robots

Photonics.com
Jun 2009
ROSEMONT, Ill., June 17, 2009 – It was day two of the Robots & Vision show at the Donald E. Stephens convention center in Rosemont, Illinois, and I had to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming when I saw a colossal robot hoist a gigantic block of steel into the air like it was a rag doll. It was the Super Heavy-Duty M-2000iA from Fanuc Robotics. This monster can carry a 1,350 kg payload—more than 2,000 pounds. That’s more than one U.S. ton.

Fanuc Robotics had automatons that can lift and sort everything from hamburger patties to hubcaps. On the other side of the convention center were the LED lights for machine vision. There were all kinds of LED light sources, including ring lights, line lights, diffuse illumination, dome lights and strobes.

One of the companies showing these lights was CCS (Creative Customer Satisfaction) of Kyoto, Japan, and another was Advanced Illumination. Daryl Martin of Advanced Illumination gave a tutorial lecture on machine vision earlier that day. He explained that diffuse light sources are best when you want to avoid reflection and dome lights are good for curved surfaces. LEDs are often rigged to flash repeatedly, or strobe, when running them continuously might cause them to break down.

I walked by the booth for Sick, a German company, and saw a basketball-dunking robot. Sick was showing a device called the Ranger E Multiscan. It can do imaging at high speed in 3-D, grayscale and laser scattering. This laser scattering capability can be helpful, for instance, if a quality inspector at a pharmaceutical company wants to see inside a “blister pack” of pills, and the grayscale imaging can help quality inspectors see the date on the same package. This imaging function could come in handy in the future because Europe is going to require all pharmaceutical packaging to have instructions in Braille by 2012.

The talk of the show was Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) technology. It is a type of cabling that can run 100 meters long, so if, for instance, a camera needs to be placed over molten steel, the cable can go to a remote operational system where a worker can safely monitor the steel. This way, if anything falls into the fiery mess below, it won’t be the computer system or the person operating it. Baumer and Sony were some companies showing GigE cameras.

CameraLink cables are superior in terms of data transmission but can go only 10 meters. Some people might wonder why the cameras don’t operate wirelessly through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The reason why is because only a small amount of data can be transmitted wirelessly, certainly not enough for a machine vision application.

David L. Shenkenberg
david.shenkenberg@laurin.com


GLOSSARY
diffuse illumination
Light emitted by one or more sources and characterized by a high degree of scatter.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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