Shake, Rattle
and Robot

The Situation

A customer came to us needing a high quantity of a specific part, which we could undoubtedly handle with our robotic mill. The challenge was that the pieces needed to be loaded one by one on a conveyor by a technician to feed the robot, defeating the purpose of robotic labor.

The Challenge

How could Unity keep costs down and load efficiently without burning through staff time to do it?

The Unity Solution

The way we saw it, we had two options. The first was to use a vibratory bowl feeder, which was not an option due to the various parts involved. We needed something more universal.

The second option involved a vision system that we knew would work with our existing robot. We gave it a shot. We loaded a hopper of the parts, which slowly moved down a conveyor belt to a shaker table. The table systematically shook or popped the pieces while a camera eye identified which pieces had fallen in the proper configuration for the robot.

Then, we programmed the robot to pick up the pieces and turn them to be loaded and milled, and it picked those up at a rate of under 15 seconds per piece. After loading the properly-oriented parts, the table did its shaky work again, so the vision system could tell the robot the next part to grab.

Lasting Results

Using a vision system, a feeding mechanism, a shaker table, and a hopper/conveyor allowed this process to continue after-hours and at a rate quick enough to deliver thousands of parts in a short window of time.

Our customer was pleased with the repeatability of the process, and we at Unity were happy we could meet their target pricing by finding a solution that could save time and labor.