Picked up and put off

Guest post by IDS Corporate Communications

Autonomously driving robotic assistance system for the automated placement of coil creels

Due to the industry standard 4.0, digitalisation, automation and networking of systems and facilities are becoming the predominant topics in production and thus also in logistics. Industry 4.0 pursues the increasing optimisation of processes and workflows in favour of productivity and flexibility and thus the saving of time and costs. Robotic systems have become the driving force for automating processes. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), robots are becoming increasingly sensitive, autonomous, mobile and easier to operate. More and more they are becoming an everyday helper in factories and warehouses. Intelligent imaging techniques are playing an increasingly important role in this.

To meet the growing demands in scaling and changing production environments towards fully automated and intelligently networked production, the company ONTEC Automation GmbH from Naila in Bavaria has developed an autonomously driving robotic assistance system. The “Smart Robot Assistant” uses the synergies of mobility and automation: it consists of a powerful and efficient intralogistics platform, a flexible robot arm and a robust 3D stereo camera system from the Ensenso N series by IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH.

The solution is versatile and takes over monotonous, weighty set-up and placement tasks, for example. The autonomous transport system is suitable for floor-level lifting of Euro pallets up to container or industrial format as well as mesh pallets in various sizes with a maximum load of up to 1,200 kilograms. For a customer in the textile industry, the AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) is used for the automated loading of coil creels. For this purpose, it picks up pallets with yarn spools, transports them to the designated creel and loads it for further processing. Using a specially developed gripper system, up to 1000 yarn packages per 8-hour shift are picked up and pushed onto a mandrel of the creel. The sizing scheme and the position of the coils are captured by an Ensenso 3D camera (N45 series) installed on the gripper arm.

Application

Pallets loaded with industrial yarn spools are picked up from the floor of a predefined storage place and transported to the creel location. There, the gripper positions itself vertically above the pallet. An image trigger is sent to the Ensenso 3D camera from the N45 series, triggered by the in-house software ONTEC SPSComm. It networks with the vehicle’s PLC and can thus read out and pass on data. In the application, SPSComm controls the communication between the software parts of the vehicle, gripper and camera. This way, the camera knows when the vehicle and the grabber are in position to take a picture. This takes an image and passes on a point cloud to a software solution from ONTEC based on the standard HALCON software, which reports the coordinates of the coils on the pallet to the robot. The robot can then accurately pick up the coils and process them further. As soon as the gripper has cleared a layer of the yarn spools, the Ensenso camera takes a picture of the packaging material lying between the yarn spools and provides point clouds of this as well. These point clouds are processed similarly to provide the robot with the information with which a needle gripper removes the intermediate layers. “This approach means that the number of layers and finishing patterns of the pallets do not have to be defined in advance and even incomplete pallets can be processed without any problems,” explains Tim Böckel, software developer at ONTEC. “The gripper does not have to be converted for the use of the needle gripper. For this application, it has a normal gripping component for the coils and a needle gripping component for the intermediate layers.”

For this task, the mobile use for 3D acquisition of moving and static objects on the robot arm, the Ensenso 3D camera is suitable due to its compact design. The Ensenso N 45’s 3D stereo electronics are completely decoupled from the housing, allowing the use of a lightweight plastic composite as the housing material. The low weight facilitates the use on robot arms such as the Smart Robotic Asstistant. The camera can also cope with demanding environmental conditions. “Challenges with this application can be found primarily in the different lighting conditions that are evident in different rooms of the hall and at different times of the day,” Tim Böckel describes the situation. Even in difficult lighting conditions, the integrated projector projects a high-contrast texture onto the object to be imaged by means of a pattern mask with a random dot pattern, thus supplementing the structures on featureless homogenous surfaces. This means that the integrated camera meets the requirements exactly. “By pre-configuring within NxView, the task was solved well.” This sample programme with source code demonstrates the main functions of the NxLib library, which can be used to open one or more stereo and colour cameras whose image and depth data are visualised. Parameters such as exposure time, binning, AOI and depth measuring range can – as in this case – be adjusted live for the matching method used.

The matching process empowers the Ensenso 3D camera to recognise a very high number of pixels, including their position change, by means of the auxiliary structures projected onto the surface and to create complete, homogeneous depth information of the scene from this. This in turn ensures the necessary precision with which the Smart Robot Assistant proceeds. Other selection criteria for the camera were, among others, the standard vision interface Gigabit Ethernet and the global shutter 1.3 MP sensor. “The camera only takes one image pair of the entire pallet in favour of a faster throughput time, but it has to provide the coordinates from a relatively large distance with an accuracy in the millimetre range to enable the robot arm to grip precisely,” explains Matthias Hofmann, IT specialist for application development at ONTEC. “We therefore need the high resolution of the camera to be able to safely record the edges of the coils with the 3D camera.” The localisation of the edges is important in order to be able to pass on as accurate as possible the position from the centre of the spool to the gripper.

Furthermore, the camera is specially designed for use in harsh environmental conditions. It has a screwable GPIO connector for trigger and flash and is IP65/67 protected against dirt, dust, splash water or cleaning agents.

Software

The Ensenso SDK enables hand-eye calibration of the camera to the robot arm, allowing easy translation or displacement of coordinates using the robot pose. In addition, by using the internal camera settings, a “FileCam” of the current situation is recorded at each pass, i.e. at each image trigger. This makes it possible to easily adjust any edge cases later on, in this application for example unexpected lighting conditions, obstacles in the image or also an unexpected positioning of the coils in the image. The Ensenso SDK also allows the internal camera LOG files to be stored and archived for possible evaluation.

ONTEC also uses these “FileCams” to automatically check test cases and thus ensure the correct functioning of all arrangements when making adjustments to the vision software. In addition, various vehicles can be coordinated and logistical bottlenecks minimised on the basis of the control system specially developed by ONTEC. Different assistants can be navigated and act simultaneously in a very confined space. By using the industrial interface tool ONTEC SPSComm, even standard industrial robots can be safely integrated into the overall application and data can be exchanged between the different systems.

Outlook

Further development of the system is planned, among other things, in terms of navigation of the autonomous vehicle. “With regard to vehicle navigation for our AGV, the use of IDS cameras is very interesting. We are currently evaluating the use of the new Ensenso S series to enable the vehicle to react even more flexibly to obstacles, for example, classify them and possibly even drive around them,” says Tim Böckel, software developer at ONTEC, outlining the next development step.

ONTEC’s own interface configuration already enables the system to be integrated into a wide variety of Industry 4.0 applications, while the modular structure of the autonomously moving robot solution leaves room for adaptation to a wide variety of tasks. In this way, it not only serves to increase efficiency and flexibility in production and logistics, but in many places also literally contributes to relieving the workload of employees.

More at: https://en.ids-imaging.com/casestudies-detail/picked-up-and-put-off-ensenso.html

Robotics Smarttech – mein erstes Mal fischertechnik

Auch wenn ich schon viele Roboter gebaut und getestet habe, ist dies heute eine Premiere! In den letzten Tagen habe ich zum ersten Mal einen Roboter von fischertechnik gebaut.  Die Pressankündigung des fischertechnik Robotics Smarttech haben wir bereits in den letzten Tagen vorgestellt. [LINK]

Nun durfte ich ihn selber testen. Das Bausystem war mir zwar neu, hat mir aber auf Anhieb Spaß gemacht und ist wirklich einfach zu verwenden. Hat man sich einmal an die Bauanleitung und deren Stil gewöhnt, ist diese einfach verständlich. Während des Zusammenbaus des vierrädrigen Roboters mit den Omniwheels und dem Gestensensor, der mich ungefähr vier Stunden beschäftigt hat, habe ich dann auch gelernt auf welche Feinheiten ich in der Anleitung achten muss. Mir, als fischertechnik Neuling, sind zwei, drei Fehler passiert, die mir aber beim nächsten fischertechnik Modell bestimmt nicht mehr passieren würden. Überrascht war ich, dass man bei diesem Set die Kabel noch selber ablängen, abisolieren und die Steckverbinder anbringen muss. Das war ich aus anderem Roboter Kästen bisher nicht gewohnt; dies bietet aber die tolle Möglichkeit Kabel nach eigenen Wünschen und Längen zu erstellen. Diese Möglichkeit besteht bei vielen anderen Herstellern nicht und gerade wenn man mal einen etwas größeren Roboter baut, ist es von Vorteil wenn man lange Kabel selber fertigen kann.

Die Bauteile halten gut zusammen und es lassen sich sehr stabile Roboter konstruieren. Kinder brauchen hier vielleicht an der ein oder anderen Stelle etwas Unterstützung wenn die Teile, gerade wenn sie noch neu sind, noch etwas schwergängig zusammen zu stecken sind. Der von mir gebaute Roboter war dafür im Anschluss sehr stabil und überlebt selbst kleinere Stürze ohne dass Teile abfallen.

Die coolen Omniwheels ermöglichen es dem Roboter jederzeit in jede Richtung zu fahren. Solche Räder findet man in Robotersets leider viel zu selten! Daher fiel die erste Wahl auch direkt auf das Basismodell mit den neuen Omniwheels. Anschließend habe ich dies mit dem Spursensor und dem Gestensensor erweitert. Neben diesen beiden Modellvarianten sind Anleitungen für weitere sieben Roboter enthalten.

Der Roboter lässt sich entweder mit einem Netzteil oder mit einem Akku-Set betreiben, beides muss leider extra erworben werden.

Die aktuellste Version der für die Programmierung benötigten Software ROBOPro fand ich auf der Homepage von fischertechnik. Nachdem ich den Roboter über die Konfiguration auf dessen Touchscreen mit meinem WLAN verbunden habe (Okay: USB oder Bluetooth wäre auch gegangen, aber der Geek in mir musste direkt WLAN ausprobieren), konnte ich diesen mit der ROBOPro Software verbinden und programmieren. Das für die Cloud Funktionen benötigte Update wurde beim ersten Verbinden mit der ROBOPro Software mir sofort angeboten und ich konnte es problemlos installieren. Mit diesem Update lässt sich der Roboter als IoT Device in die fischertechnik Cloud einbinden und als smartes Gerät mit dem Internet kommunizieren. So kann man zum Beispiel eine Alarmanlage bauen, die einen über das Internet beim Auslösen alarmiert.

Neben der Möglichkeit in der ROBOPro Software grafisch zu programmieren, kann mit einer zusätzlichen frei verfügbaren Software auch in Scratch grafisch programmiert werden. Wer lieber textbasiert programmieren möchte kann dies auch in C. Da das Betriebssystem des Roboters auf Linux basiert, gibt es hier bestimmt noch jede Menge weitere, mir bisher unbekannte, Möglichkeiten den Roboter zu “hacken” und noch mehr Funktionen hinzuzufügen. Das Einloggen auf dem Roboter per SSH ist auf jeden Fall möglich und über den SD-Karten Slot lassen sich alternative Betriebssysteme installieren und der Speicher erweitern.

Mein erster fischertechnik Roboter, genauer der Robotics Smarttech Roboter, hat mir bisher Freude bereitet und ich hatte Spaß daran mal ein mir bisher unbekannte Bausystem auszuprobieren. Mit den “selbstgebauten” Kabeln und den universellen Ei- und Ausgängen am Controller, sowie der Cloud Anbindung, finden sich sicherlich auch tolle Einsatzmöglichkeiten abseits vom Einsatz als Spielzeugroboter.

Quantum Integration Launches Its Complete IoT Platform on Kickstarter

The Quantum platform gives electronic enthusiasts, educators and developers total control of their IoT network. Built for novices and experts alike, anyone can control anything from a remote temperature sensor to an automated home and even robots with ease.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., July 28, 2020 (Newswire.com) – Quantum Integration is announcing the launch of its Kickstarter campaign for the Quantum platform, beginning Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

Built from the ground up with a complete set of hardware and software, the Quantum platform allows anyone to build custom plug-and-play IoT devices that easily communicate with each other any way the user desires. With a graphical user interface for creating custom firmware for IoT devices and the applications that control them, programming is not required.​

“We’re incredibly excited to open up this kind of technology to the mainstream,” says Michael Barnick, CEO and founder of Quantum Integration. “Hobby electronics and the IoT space in general can be intimidating for some, and platforms require a degree of programming knowledge. Our platform’s features like the drag-and-drop App Builder and automated Firmware Generator make developing complex projects simple, and users easily create and take on their own projects in record time.”

With a goal of $25,000, the Kickstarter campaign will run from July 28, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2020. Products will be ready to ship in September 2020.

Backers can choose from a variety of pledges, which are:

  • The Q-Server Central Core – The heart and power of the IoT platform which provides complete control of the entire IoT network.
  • Q-Client Builder Base – The easiest way for users to build their own custom IoT devices; can add virtually any sensor or device to the network.
  • Starter Kit – A wide variety of electronic components ready for immediate use on the Quantum IoT platform​.

Limited quantities at an incredible discount are available for early backers. For more information and to become a backer, visit the Quantum Kickstarter campaign.

About Quantum Integration Inc.​​

The Quantum IoT platform enables electronics hobbyists to create wireless devices from a simple button to complete home automation and robots, and control it with custom apps and firmware without coding, all through a central server. The power of making!​​

For more information, visit www.quantumintegrate.com.

Quantum Integration Launches the First IoT Platform Designed Specifically for Electronic Hobbyists; coming to Kickstarter soon!

Makers can create custom apps and firmware without coding through a simple graphic UI and control any wireless device through a central server within the Quantum IoT Platform.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., June 25, 2020 (Newswire.com) – Frustrated with Arduino’s limitations and a desire to wirelessly automate devices in the home, Michael Barnick, 58, founded Quantum Integration to bring a new level of integration and IoT to home automation enthusiasts. With his background in computer engineering, including management at Apple Computer, and as an experienced tech startup entrepreneur, he decided to change the industry and finally making it easy for electronics hobbyists to make and manage their very own IoT networks.

“Single-use IoT devices like ‘Nest’ are no longer enough for those wanting more control. The Quantum IoT platform is unique in that it allows easy integration of any number and type of device. It’s plug-and-play from beginning to end and designed for novices and experts alike,” said Mr. Barnick. “It is now easier than ever to build custom automation projects from using remote temperature sensors, lighting control, security systems, entire high-end home automation, and even robots. The only limit is your imagination!”

Quantum Integration is a California-based corporation founded in 2017, specializing in IoT platforms and devices. Their products include servers, wireless IoT devices and their own proprietary operating system.

They also offer a Starter Bundle that includes a Q-Server and two Builder Bases for only $249, which provides a complete IoT platform, enabling anyone to build sophisticated and purposeful projects.

Hardware products will be available for a discounted purchase price on Kickstarter, starting mid-July 2020, and will later be available from online resellers or directly at quantumintegrate.com, beginning mid-August 2020.

“Using the Quantum IoT Platform, I was able to do in minutes what would have taken days on Arduino. If you’re an electronics hobbyist or enthusiast with a love for wireless devices, the Quantum IoT Platform is for you!” said Joeran Kinzel, Co-Founder.

Learn more at quantumintegrate.com and Follow Us on FacebookInstagram, and Youtube

About Quantum Integration

Quantum Integration delivers a user-friendly IoT platform that empowers electronics enthusiasts and hobbyists to build high tech projects from a simple button to home automation and robots. Leveraging the combination of multiple Q-Client Builder Bases, Q-Servers and a straightforward developer environment, users can write apps and create custom firmware without coding. Quantum Integration provides a superior experience in the home. The company’s platform eliminates the barriers prohibiting adoption of home automation, making it the new standard for convenience. The key to accomplishing this is the company’s unique platform designed specifically for a wide range of low-cost Bluetooth devices. Quantum Integration also provides a graphic based development environment that allows fast and easy control of any custom device. Along with a smart plug-and-play feature, users can add and use devices on the network in a matter of seconds, at a price point and scalability unmatched by any of the competitions in the sphere.

Find the Kickstarter project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/quantumintegration/the-complete-iot-platform-for-electronic-hobby-enthusiasts

Dynepic® to Launch Internet of Toys™ Platform & Debut Product on Kickstarter: 15 November

Dynepic® is pleased to debut the future of toys with our premier device, the DynePod™, which will launch 15 November on Kickstarter.com.  DynePods™ operate on The Internet of Toys™ (IoToys), Dynepic’s state-of-the-art open platform designed to share cloud content and connect toys, merging elements of child’s play and technology to enable children to interact with their toys in revolutionary and modern ways.

The DynePod™ is an educational, Bluetooth connected toy designed to introduce fundamental concepts of customization, socialization, programming and engineering, by allowing children to create their own interactive programs for their toys. Using a graphical If, Then programming interface, developed under contract with the National Science Foundation, children can create a multitude of unique, useful programs that involve both the digital and physical world.  DynePods™ are modular, fully customizable toys that are compatible with a multitude of self-designed and 3D printed accessories, encouraging the next generation to start innovating.  Enabled by the Internet of Toys™ platform, DynePods™ can morph and grow with the child through cloud updates, as well as connect wirelessly with other DynePods™ and a host of other future toys linked to the platform.

“DynePods™ and The Internet of Toys™ platform will enable new play patterns and encourage open-ended exploration for the future of toys, for children, makers, and toy inventors alike,” Krissa Watry, Dynepic’s Co-Founder & CEO, comments.  “We hope you will join us by supporting DynePods™ and the Internet of Toys on Kickstarter, 15 November.” For more information on how Dynepic is working to build the COOL aisle for toys, please visit our website www.dynepic.com or contact us at [email protected]. A Press kit is available.

Founded in 2011, Dynepic® is focused on building cool connected toys and an open architecture and cloud platform to drive child friendly content in new and innovative ways. Dynepic® is a women owned, veteran owned, small business focused on creating the Internet of Toys™.