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Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Technologies Today

What Is Robot Vision Guidance?


Robot vision guidance refers to the use of cameras with industrial robots. These cameras help robots understand their location relative to moving or fixed objects for activities such as pick-and-place, inspection, and other operations.

Together, the machine vision system (which consists of not only the camera, but also other sub-components like image processing software, lenses, and lighting) and robotic arm work together in what’s known as a vision-guided robotics system. The typical process of this system is: 1) the camera captures an image of the object or area, 2) the image processing software analyzes this data and directs the robot, and 3) the robotic arm picks up and relocates objects or performs other automated tasks. All three steps of this process happen in milliseconds.

There are many advantages of implementing vision-guided robots into manufacturing processes, but there are also some challenges. In this article, we’ll cover what these benefits and challenges are.

a black-and-white outline of a camera on a white background

Standard Robot Vision Applications

Before getting into the benefits and challenges of vision-guided robots, let’s take a look at some of the most common robot vision applications:

  • Material Handling
  • Inspection
  • Pick-&-Place
  • Assembly
  • Identification

Just one mistake in any of these applications can result in downtime, profit loss, and production delays, which is where vision-guided robots can help.

Benefits of Vision-Guided Robots

One of the biggest benefits of vision-guided robots is their use of cameras. Traditional robots without machine vision rely on points to locate objects, and these points must be pre-programmed by a technician either using a teach pendant or software. Additionally, there may be situations where these pre-programmed points have to be retaught to the robot because of changes in locations of parts and fixtures, this can result in costly downtime.

Beyond helping to reduce downtime, vision-guided robotic systems also:

  • Improve Accuracy for Fast/High-Speed Application: In general, the use of cameras with machine vision software help an industrial robot respond better to environmental changes when compared to robots that only rely on taught points.
  • Have Enhanced Part Recognition Capabilities: In relation to accuracy, robots using machine vision can easily recognize a wrong part because it does not match the image of a good part and will only pick up a part which it recognizes as matching.
  • Increase Process Flexibility: Vision-guided robots are able to pick up different parts from different locations with little to no difficulties.
  • Come With User-Friendly Software: Many vision-guided robots come with intuitive software that’s easy to use. This can be beneficial to technicians who may not have prior programming experience. Additionally, there are even some vision systems that are entirely plug-and-play for easier integration.

Although there is some work that must be done when setting up a vision system (we’ll get to that in the next section), vision-guided robots are by far a great investment for manufacturers who rely on process speed, accuracy, and flexibility.

Challenges of Implementing Vision-Guided Robots

a macro shot of a robotic arm that's using an infrared camera to capture images during a manufacturing process

Just like any investment, there are some factors to consider. When implemented correctly, vision-guided robotic systems can offer manufacturers many benefits, as we’ve already covered. However, the essential phrase to remember here is when implemented correctly.

Any implementation project needs a comprehensive and practical plan. Before integrating vision systems into your robots, ask yourself this question: Do I have someone on my team who fully understands optical engineering technology? There should be a person on your team that can help select the right camera, lens, and lighting. The type of vision system you need for your robots largely depends on the application.

In addition to having an optical engineer on staff, or someone experienced in optical engineering, there must be a person on your team who can calibrate the camera to the robot’s coordinate system.

Lastly, before you design and implement your system, you must also perform a full application evaluation. In this type of evaluation, you would need to highlight the overall goals and expectations of your application, including your targeted processing rate, level of precision required, and the types of parts (and part geometries) the robot will be handling.

Despite these challenges, there are some easily integrable systems that you can research.  EPSON’s CV2 is an example of one such system.

CV2: An Easily Integrable Vision Guidance System

visions epson

EPSON is a leading manufacturer of robot vision guidance systems that are easy to configure, calibrate, and integrate. Their CV2 system is a complete, all-in-one platform that includes the processor, software, camera, and lenses, and it can be integrated with any EPSON robot.

Additionally, EPSON has managed to not only increase the speed and precision of the CV2 system, but also keep the cost affordable, making this cutting-edge technology accessible to a wider range of manufacturers. The CV2 also supports color recognition, can be configured with up to four cameras per controller, and is available in both standard and high-speed versions.

Finally, the CV2 utilizes EPSON’s proprietary RC+ software. This helps reduce program development time to hours instead of weeks by featuring an easy point-and-click interface.

Learn More About Robot Vision Guidance Today

Do you have general questions about vision-guided robots or EPSON’s CV2? Turn to Schneider & Company. Proudly serving clients throughout North America, we’re a manufacturer’s representative and authorized distributor of EPSON products and solutions. We’re also the only EPSON distributor in the United States that teaches half-day robot vision guidance classes.

Contact us today to learn more about upcoming robot vision guidance classes, or to schedule a consultation with one of our experts.