Miniature photoelectric distance measurement modules help robots avoid gripper collisions

Collision avoidance is an absolute priority for automation engineers implementing robotic handling systems. At worst, a collision can result in injury to a human co-worker; at best, damage to static infrastructure or other equipment. Either way, the implications are serious for any organisation, an accident is costly and potentially tragic. While anti-collision measures will typically be coded into software routines, this is not always sufficient.

In a manufacturing cell, robotic handling systems build electromechanical sub-assemblies before presenting them for automated testing. At each stage, parts are transported between operations by compact, multi-finger robot grippers, which are programmed individually according to the geometry of both the parts and the production equipment.

As the products develop over time, the routines that control their manufacture also evolve. If conflicts between neighbouring robots aren’t eliminated completely, or if unplanned human intervention occurs, there’s an unacceptable risk of an accident. A cost-effective hardware solution is required to provide overriding anti-collision protection if this situation arises.

Production engineers specified grippers fitted with Contrinex MiniDist photoelectric sensor modules as a reliable and cost-effective means of measuring the proximity of obstructions in real time. When transporting parts between operations, these miniature distance sensors, embedded in the outward-facing surfaces of the gripper jaws, monitor the position of potential obstructions during travel.

MiniDist sensors are designed with the needs of OEMs and system integrators in mind and provide an unobtrusive fit-and-forget solution. These miniature devices weigh only 3.1 grams, and with a compact 4mm x 4mm x 11mm envelope and no external housing, they allow easy integration in tight spaces with insufficient room for traditional devices.

With sensing distances of up to 40mm, MiniDist devices offer designers highly versatile options when specifying equipment. An industry-standard PNP analog output ensures optimum flexibility, with an output range of 0.3V to 3V allowing scope for in-situ adjustment. Connection is via a 4-wire PVC-sheathed cable with a 2m standard length; alternative options are available on request.

These highly versatile miniature sensors meet the customer’s need for reliable operation while preventing accidents. The solution is both highly reliable and cost-effective while eliminating collision hazards; production throughput is maintained at or above target levels without compromising the safety of people or equipment.

Contrinex sensors and more information are available from PLUS Automation.

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