“Our customer is very impressed. They had not expected that this […] cost-efficient modification would eliminate these errors entirely, nor that the implementation would be as flawless as it was.”

Christian Kautenburger, Managing Director at Kautenburger GmbH

Robot Vision System Improves Industrial Automation

How Adding a Robot Vision System Led to an Increased Robustness and 50% Reduced Cycle Time in Refractory Bricks Production Processes

Some industrial automation processes look straightforward at first glance, and sometimes the challenges materialize only over time: In this case, the addition of a robot vision system into the automated handling process of oven bricks solved issues caused by ever-so-slightly shifting positions and changing shapes of these bricks during their processing.

Since 1990, Kautenburger GmbH (Germany) is setting standards in the development of innovative products and systems in industrial automation. Among their customers is Refractarios Kelsen S.A. (Spain). The company produces refractory components and solutions that include fire clay bricks, fireproof bricks used for lining furnaces.

In the production process, these bricks are stacked onto wagons, which transport them into an oven for hardening. Such bricks can come in well over 100 different shapes and sizes. In addition, in order to optimize the hardening process, they are stacked in very specific patterns.

Industrial robot picks bricks from a waggon by making use of a robot vision system installed above the scene

The Devil is in the Detail: A Seemingly Easy Automation Process Proves Tricky

“Stacking the bricks onto the wagons robotically is not a great challenge in terms of automation,” says Christian Kautenburger, Managing Director of Kautenburger GmbH. “However, during the processing and transport the bricks will – even if only slightly – change their shape, and their positions may shift as well.

Hence, simply reversing the palletizing procedure in order to de-palletize them, has led to issues: The lack of millimetric precision means the robot may be unable to grasp stones, as it cannot achieve a vacuum. On occassion, it can even cause the delicate stacks to tumble over. This leads to downtimes, waste and requires human intervention, making the automated handling somewhat inefficient.”

Industrial robot picks bricks from a waggon by making use of a robot vision system installed above the scene
Bricks piled up on pallets in factory

‘Eyes and Brains’ do the Trick: Off-the-Shelf Robot Vision System Eradicated Errors and Reduced Cycle Times by 50%

Using Roboception’s rc_visard 160mrc_randomdot pattern projector and rc_reason BoxPick module, Kautenburger has implemented a solution that eradicated these problems:

Thanks to these ‘eyes and brains’, the robot vision system detects the bricks simply by identifying their rectangular shape. It provides the robot with precise grasp points – fully independent of the brick’s type, position, angle, or orientation.

With the cycle time for a pick-and-place reduced from 18 to nine seconds and literally no downtime, Refractarios Kelsen now benefits from a significantly quicker, fully automated handling process.

Another aspect in favor of Roboception’s sensor: The comparatively large baseline of 160 mm allows the coverage of the entire width of the wagon (1.600 mm) in one take. Its mounting above the AoI rather than on the robot enables the detection of the next grasp point to take place while the robot is still executing the previous ‘place’ process.

“Our customer is very impressed:
They had not expected that this seemingly simple and highly cost-efficient modification would eliminate these errors entirely, nor that the implementation would be as flawless as it was.

Also, the customer appreciates the very intuitive interfaces of this robot vision system as much as we do. It is easy to make changes and updates. Robot vision expertise is not required, neither for implementation nor updates and maintenance.“

Christian Kautenburger
Managing Director of Kautenburger GmbH
Portrait image Christian Kautenburger
Logo Kautenburger GmbH

About Kautenburger GmbH

Whether fully automated manufacturing cells, robotics, gripping systems or conveyor technology: A wide variety of industries use Kautenburger’s high-tech solutions. From concept and development to the entire production, assembly and commissioning, the customer can count on their know-how and flexibility.

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Build Your Robot Vision System

With the sensor mounted well above the fairly large workspace and the size and shape of the bricks making them fairly easy detection targets, the 160 mm baseline was the decisive factor in sensor selection.

The rc_randomdot pattern projector enhaces the setup for ideal detection results. It ensures a reliable detection in all lighting conditions, and even for closely stacked bricks.

Initially designed for a reliabe detection of boxes in logistics settings, the rc_reason BoxPick module supports the detection of any object featuring rectangular shapes – such as bricks.

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