ATLANTA--Advanced software algorithms developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology are the foundation for a new robotic motion control system that will help manufacturers reduce the labor involved in routine inspection and material handling tasks.

Produced by CAMotion Inc., the PC-based software provides greater intelligence for automated operations, allowing off-the-shelf, low-cost robotic equipment to handle tasks that previously required more precise and much heavier components.

Traditional robotic systems have already brought about significant productivity gains in manufacturing processes that involve highly repetitive, difficult and dangerous tasks. However, CAMotion is taking aim at processes that are not cost-effective to automate: assembly operations, loading and unloading containers or machines, and inspecting products for quality standards.

"If you look at what people do in factories, direct labor is now almost entirely used for motion," says Steve Dickerson, chairman of CAMotion and a professor emeritus at Georgia Tech. "The fact that people have good hand-eye coordination and the intelligence to know the next task means that people in manufacturing are used almost exclusively for moving things around. These tasks do not require the same precision as placing components on a circuit board, but [they do require] large-scale motions across three dimensions [that are] difficult to automate in a cost-effective way."

CAMotion's first customer is painting company Vulcan Group (Birmingham, AL). The company uses two CAMotion systems: one to inspect automobile roof racks after painting and the other to stack the completed parts in a shipping container. As part of the inspection task, a gantry-type robot moves both the parts and the vision system to acquire 24 different images of each part.

Georgia Tech researchers developed three types of algorithms included in CAMotion's software:

  • A vibration control algorithm plans the robotic axis trajectory in such a way as to avoid creat-ing unnecessary oscillation.By "damping out" the vibration, the "intelligent trajectory" allows the use of lighter and less expensive components.
  • A learning algorithm helps the equipment improve its own performance based on feedback. This typically produces a 10-to-1 reduction in dynamic error.
  • Position estimation software, combining machine vision, encoders and accelerometers, helps the system know its own location relative to the work and thus how to move to accomplish a task.
"We can build a machine that is not as rigid or precise, because our software compensates for that," says Bob Purcell, president of CAMotion. "Therefore, we can build automation equipment with the same level or higher level of performance at less expense. What differentiates us is the ability to produce a machine that is very cost-effective for a variety of tasks."

For more information, call CAMotion at 404-874-0090.