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Robot versus knot – it’s a tie

Robot versus knot – it’s a tie

The applications for robots and automation continue to grow as the technology becomes ever more capable and flexible. Add innovative design concepts to the mix and it is now possible to achieve tasks that were once the strict domain of the human. A system designed to tie knots automatically clearly demonstrates that robots and automation together have taken great leaps forward and are no longer not just for the simple tasks.

Many of the traditional tasks for robots involve either handling and picking items from one location to another or performing process operations such as spot welding, arc welding, gluing, sealing and laser cutting. These are all important applications at the heart of many manufacturing processes, some of which also use external sensors or machine vision to enhance their flexibility and capability.

Until now, the more tactile and dexterous tasks, such as tying a knot, have generally been left to operators. However, where consistency and speed are essential elements, then a combination of robots and intelligent automation is likely to be the preferred solution.

The challenge presented to Wood Automated Systems UK was to tie a knot in a twisted wire pair, in a repeatable manner and within a specified target cycle time. A virtual reality (VR) simulation was performed using a robot operating in conjunction with a static tooling post to evaluate the technique and prove the concept. Although the knot typing concept proved to be successful, the robot on it’s own was just too slow. A revised concept was tested, this time incorporating an intelligent tooling post, and the final solution was identified. 

Tim Bednall, sales and marketing manager for Wood Automated Systems UK commented:  “This is a great example of combining innovative design concepts with a highly flexible robot and an element of bespoke automation to deliver a solution to a task generally perceived as requiring a manual operator. Whilst this system has been designed specifically for twisted wire pairs, the fundamental concept could be applied to many different knot-tying applications.”

The cell incorporates a 6-axis robot and a machine vision system. The machine vision system performs multiple roles including, checking that the knot is present, determining the position of the knot in relation to another component to a pre-defined tolerance, and performing a quality inspection on that component for the presence of flash.

Wood Automated Systems UK applies its design and automation expertise to a wide spectrum of applications, many of which incorporate a diverse range of technologies, to deliver high quality production automation solutions for multiple industry sectors.

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