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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Bin Picking in Nature and Business: 2011 technical trends and market progression
Sept 7, 2011

When considering random picking, it is appropriate to begin with two facets of the natural world and our human life. Doing this gives us a basic understanding of the process and helps us draw relevance in the manufacturing setting.

First, the world is filled with entropy, or disordered order, or alternately, ordered disorder. As an example, no two trees are identical yet trees of the same kind look similar. In the autumn, leaves do not fall in a rectangular grid pattern; they look similar but they are uniquely different and when they fall, they fall in a random order driven by the forces of wind and gravity. In a similar manner, it is natural to have parts made in a stamping machine or a die cast to fall in a heap in a bin in random order. By virtue of gravity, they do not fall in an ordered geometric pattern. Thus, entropy and randomness are integral in our natural world.

We as human beings find it naturally easy to see objects in an unordered environment and then to touch or pick them. We do it many times each day; often without even thinking about it.

Humans deal with this disorder of picking leaves off the ground, or separating clothes in a heap by two of the most used of our five senses: sight and touch. We are able to i) see things, ii) figure out where they are, and then iii) tell our arms, hands and fingers how to acquire them and perform an action. This, too, has a mechanized analogy. The science and art of seeing objects in disarray with machine vision cameras and to figure out where they are in physical space, and then to command robots to acquire them and perform a subsequent action is called “bin picking.”

In the manufacturing business, presentation of parts to robots for handling or assembly creates cost, tooling and maintenance. It is ideal to be able to acquire parts, resting naturally in varied forms of random order, from bins, trays, totes, racks, etc. thereby saving multiple costs.
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