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ABB vision guided Robotic PickMaster pock chop packaging

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PickMaster, a productivity enhancing software concept for high speed picking applications — developed by ABB Robotics and based on Cognex vision technology

ABB Robotics, a leading global supplier of robotized automation solutions, products, systems and services has developed a productivity enhancing PC-based software concept named PickMaster, which is a tool for a fast integration of robots with conveying product transportation belts and vision cameras. Based on a generic format of the software it can be used in various installations.

ABB Robotics is developing robots and software for packaging applications in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and daily care industry. The robotics technology combined with vision technology enables flexible production with the capability to respond to the growing need for fast changes of the formats. Industrial robots are increasingly used in a variety of manufacturing tasks. The robot technology is rapidly spread to new customers within an increasing number of industries e.g. consumer industries. ABB was the first company to reach a 100,000 robots installed worldwide.

PickMaster – a solution for picking, packing and palletizing

Packaging applications range from high speed picking in primary packaging applications to palletizing of boxes for the final transportation. The high speed picking process is the place in a production where products are packaged in their first format – often right after they have been produced or processed to it’s final form. This is the same for croissants as much as for syringes, slices of meet or fish – fresh or frozen. In order to gain full flexibility, the products are arriving on conveyors in random order. The vision system targets the products on the belt and can simultaneously make advanced quality inspections before the target positions are sent to one or more robots, which pick them up and place them in forms, trays, boxes or simply a predefined pattern. These productions have a very high throughput and 800 products per minute are not unusual. Yet, the reliability of these systems are the highest priority for the producing companies and even 0.5% failure would cause 4 products per minute to fail, which is as much as 240 products per hour.

PickMaster can coordinate the production of eight robots working with eight cameras simultaneously. Powerful process functions allow the production to be evenly distributed on all robots and PickMaster even guarantees that all packages are filled after the last robot. If one robot is taken out of production, the system can still continue to run reliably with just the slightly reduced capacity of the one robot.

Cognex vision applications was chosen for having the strongest technology advances and offered efficient PC-software interfaces for integrating the vision functions in ABB’s robot technology. ABB relies on the high performance Cognex MVS-8000® series vision technology. Being a modern easy-to-use PC-software, ABB decided to use the highest performance level Cognex CVLTM Vision Library where PatMax® was the most important software tool for handling most of the targeted applications. PatMax supports the intention in PickMaster of being a flexible solution. PatMax works very well for e.g. inspection of the largest part of consumer products, also on naturally formed products like bakery, meat, fish, etc.

The Cognex vision software is included in the PickMaster software and packaged, ready to be installed in one image on a standard PC. ABB partners integrate PickMaster with the Cognex vision system.

Comment by Henrik Knobel, Product Manager, ABB Robotics:

“The rapid spread of robot technology worldwide proves that robotized automation solutions are the key to higher productivity, better economics and higher product quality in production sites. Industrial vision technology provides a broad palette of ABB robots with "eyes" to see where the part is located and accurately place them in precise positions at the same time performing extensive quality inspection. Especially in the labor-intensive area of primary packaging of consumer articles, the gains from automating with robots and vision are showing clearly. Being a truly globally standardized product, PickMaster is proving its advantages every day in many places in the world. It provides the robots with a flexibility that results in cost savings for automated robotics packaging cells as well as in manufacturing.

Henrik Knobel continues, "For the ABB customers the complete robotized automation solution for a specific production site is crucial. This is achieved in cooperation with skilled integrators and OEM’s who are the specialists in their industries, these partners in robotic integration benefit from PickMaster, the ABB’s standard application software product with built-in flexible vision solutions. The risks are minimized and the lines are quickly installed. For ABB, as the supplier of robots and easy to use application software products, it is important to the built-in vision technology has to be reliable and adaptive to changing needs. ABB decided to cooperate with a company with long and documented experience of machine vision systems. A company who has a good knowledge and understanding of the whole production processes in various industries. Cognex has been in the vision industry for 24 years providing vision systems and support and developing software applications for cost efficiency and minimum failure.”

ABB focuses on two core businesses: Automation Technologies and Power Technologies. The automation technologies enable the industry customers to improve their performance. The ABB Group is a leading supplier of robotized automation solutions, products, systems and services, primarily serving the automotive, foundry, consumer goods, metal fabrication, and plastic markets. The Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 102,000 people.

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