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With the lowest unemployment in nearly 50 years, the need for automated bin picking is urgent. In the U.S., where 38 percent of the manufacturing labor force moves parts between bins and manufacturing machines, 500,000 jobs remain unfilled. The automation industry is trying to meet that need: every automation trade show adds a few new companies that claim to have finally solved the puzzle of bin picking. Automatica 2018 in Munich, for example, had no fewer than 14 bin-picking demonstrations. But even at large manufacturers, few bin-picking stations can be found. And at small and mid- sized enterprises (SMEs), the number is close to zero. Why is the adoption rate of automated bin picking systems so low, when the need is so great and so many vendors claim to offer a solution? Automated bin picking a complex problem The simple answer is that for the most part, automated bin picking is only a partially solved problem. Picking randomly positioned parts from a bin and placing them precisely into a machine is a simple task for a human but a daunting task for robots. Robots must be able to grasp parts in an infinite number of orientations and reach deep into the corners of the bin all while avoiding collisions with the bin, other parts, or the work cell itself. Currently, bin picking is able to be fully automated only with a huge system integration project that requires multiple advanced technologies to work together. These include: A 3D model of the part, the bin, the robot end effector, the placement target, and any environmental obstacles A model of one or more ways to pick up the part with the end effector and deposit it at the placement target A 3D sensor to map the bin Image analysis software to locate […]
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