3D machine vision is making it safer for humans and collaborative robots (cobots) to work together. Machine vision lets a robot sense the world, process the information, and mimic the way two humans can intuitively adjust to working around each other.
Development of Cobot Safety Systems
The first class of collaborative robots sense human contact and stop to avoid harm to human collaborators. This method is effective in many applications, but it’s a crude solution. A sophisticated 3D machine vision system lets a robot stop moving before hitting a human worker. In order to be effective, this system must detect, map, classify, and predict trajectory quickly.
2D LIDAR lets robots “see” their environments, but they don’t provide the richness of data that 3D machine vision has to offer. A 2D LIDAR setup may stop for movement several meters away, in case the person unexpectedly stretches out an arm that could come in contact with the robot, but a 3D system could operate until the person actually stretches out their arm toward the robot.
3D Machine Vision Meets a New Standard
A 3D sensing system is being developed by Veo Robotics that implements the Speed and Separation Monitoring standard (SSM from ISO 10218 and ISO/TS 15066). To meet this standard, systems must be able to see and identify humans, and then stop the movement of the robot before hitting the person.
Veo’s system uses custom, 3D time-of-flight cameras and computer vision algorithms to give collaborative robots the perception and intelligence needed to work together safely with humans. The system measures the needed protective separation distance by analyzing the state of the robot, hazards, operator locations, and other defined parameters for the work cell. A stop occurs if the protective separation distance is violated.
The 3D machine vision system is able to perceive the state of the environment at 30 frames per second. The system determines all possible future states of the collaborative robot’s spacem and also is able to predict if undetected items may be present and monitor for potentially unsafe conditions.
Once the system identifies the protective separation distance has been violated, it then communicates with the collaborative robot’s control system to slow or stop the robot before it comes in contact with anything that it shouldn’t, including humans. Thanks to this technology, robots can work is close proximity to humans, even when the machine operates at speed and force levels that could be harmful.
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