Seeing more with SR3D

Robots equipped with Surround 3D capture different views and more detailed part information.

Photo: iStockphoto

Less than a decade ago, giving industrial robots vision capabilities was the equivalent of giving a blind man the gift of sight. They were no longer bumping into objects or wasting time searching for the right part. Today, with multi-camera vision technology, robots not only have the ability to see, they can see all sides of an object simultaneously.

The gift of nearly omniscient vision comes from Braintech Inc. A designer and developer of software and peripherals for vision-guided robotics (VGR), the 14-year-old company received approval for its advanced multi-camera vision-guidance technology, known as Surround 3D or SR3D.

“It’s a significant milestone for the company. We are jumping up and down that we have received the patent for Surround 3D, which widens the scope of vision guided robotics,” says Braintech CEO Rick Weidinger. “It represents another technological benchmark. The years we’ve spent investing in research and development of our technologies are paying off with new products and we are just beginning to see the benefits from these efforts.”

Designed at the company’s research and development facility in Vancouver, this is the second patent granted to Braintech in the area of VGR. The first, issued in 2004 to the 23-member company, was for single-camera 3D (SC3D). The SC3D vision system was revolutionary at the time as it related 2D, 2.5D and 3D vision technologies, including random bin picking.

The new Surround 3D system is the next step. It offers similar technology but uses multiple cameras to capture different views and more detailed information of each part. It works by analyzing images from three or more cameras encircling three-dimensional objects with precise features that cannot be seen from a one-camera view. It’s ideal for large objects such as vehicle bodies or aircraft structures.

Employing SR3D, the images are analyzed to determine the 3D position of the intended target in six degrees of freedom. The information collected is then used to correct a robot’s operational path immediately, allowing it to safely move to the exact location for various applications. Typical uses of Surround 3D include robotic vehicle body sealing, adhesive dispensing, painting and polishing and aerospace structure cutting and fastening.

Competitive technology
Traditional stereo systems use camera pairs to locate individual features and undertake a rudimentary installation process. Traditional systems for large-scale objects also require twice the number of cameras, making them more expensive and more difficult to install and maintain.