Ceric Automation, France relies on Cognex, the only vision solution for complex applications
Ceric Automation, based in France, found itself faced with the challenge of implementing a robust and reliable solution to check tiles for one of their clients. The sheer variety in the appearance of the tiles after the ‘firing’ process and the complexity of the job meant that the only possible solution was machine vision and the only supplier capable of the task was Cognex.
Today, tiles are available in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and textures in an endless range of colors. A tile maker could easily have a range of 100 different tiles with many different colors and features. Ceric Automation found itself entrusted with a project for one of its tile manufacturing clients calling for the creation of a materials-handling system. Knowing the extent to which the tile industry had become sophisticated in its customer offering, Ceric knew their task was going to be far from simple.
Challenge : find the best eyes for these robots
After tiles are molded and dried, they need to be fired. They arrive haphazardly along a conveyor belt to be positioned precisely by robots on another belt leading to the oven. The robots need to pick and place the tiles on the next conveyor belt without any breakage or false rejects. Even though these tiles are of similar shape, they are different colors and textures and are likely to have certain anomalies which are not necessarily a cause for rejection. Ceric toyed with the idea of realigning all of the tiles mechanically in order to solve the problem. However, this was not a viable option considering other aspects such as the extent to which the tiles differed in size, shape, and texture.
Vision: the only real-time solution
Taking into consideration technical constraints such as a dusty and poorly lit atmosphere, the need for a very low false reject level plus the differing aspects of each tile, it was clear that a machine vision system was the only possible solution. Ceric set about finding a company that could solve their problem. Many of those consulted were not capable of handling the task in real time or of taking on the risks inherent in such a project - with the exception of one. Cognex proposed a vision system positioned above the line to inspect the colored face of the tiles. After testing this prototype, Ceric decided to use this solution to guide the materials handling system for their client.
The system is made up of 2 Fanuc robots and one Cognex In-Sight vision system. The In-Sight vision system is a robust camera meeting IP67 standards. Armed with the powerful localization software, PatMax®, In-Sight is capable of handling the most difficult applications.
Reliable recognition even in difficult conditions
PatMax is a powerful tool that ensures the In-Sight vision system captures the image of each tile regardless of the dim light and dusty atmosphere. Considering each tile arrives every 2 seconds, this is extremely impressive in challenging conditions. PatMax also ensures that the exact position of each tile is captured and recorded. These details are communicated via Ethernet to the robots who use this information to find each tile, pick it up and place it on the next conveyor belt. The In-Sight camera is also capable of "remembering" 80 different models which means there is no need for additional programming or production interruption for the different models passing through the conveyer belts.
Stéphane Faivre-Duboz, from Cognex France commented, "The challenge presented by this application is one of the most complex that a vision system would ever have to confront." Dealing with multiple variations of color and texture such as we encountered in these tiles remains one of the most difficult problems in the vision sector. The powerful performance of these recognition algorithms, the durability, flexibility, and ease of use of the In-Sight family of cameras are what lies behind the strength of the Cognex solution, she said.
Ceric can now confidently propose their vision guided robot solutions to their clients, not only in France, but all over the world by relying on the support and international presence of Cognex.