Vision-guided robot lends coffee roaster a hand

Coffee roaster uses robotic solution to solve in-feed problems and double throughput.

By ·

In manufacturing, a weak link can decrease productivity and increase cost.  For a large coffee roaster processing 650,000 bags of beans each year, that weak link was a robot used to unload pallets stacked with bags of raw beans to a conveyor that feeds the roaster.  The robot’s gripper arm was tearing the burlap bags and spilling coffee beans on the floor.  This caused safety issues, wasted about 100,000 pounds of beans every year and directed expensive labor to clean up duty. 

So plant managers turned to an advanced vision-guided robotic in-feed system (Concept Systems) for a helping robotic hand. The new system uses two cameras, two lasers and software to scan the bags, calculate the contours and create a 3D profile of the pallets, which are each loaded with twenty 150-pound bags in four five-bag layers. A computer model is constructed for every tier of bags then run through an algorithm that identifies its unique features and determines the precise position and orientation of each bag.

This information determines the optimal pickup point on the bags and is used to dispatch the robot to each bag for pickup.  The robot’s end effector pierces the bags and picks them up using pneumatically operated tines to push the burlap out of the way and penetrate the bag without tearing it.

As each layer is removed, the 3D model is updated for the next layer. To determine which bag to pick up first when presented with a new pallet or a full tier of bags on a partial pallet, the software directs the robot arm to the highest bag. 

The vision-guided robotic in-feed system has helped the coffee roasters double its green bean in-feed rate.  And, by keeping the coffee beans from spilling all over the floor, the company has cleaned up waste and safety issues and significantly reduced labor costs.


About the Author

Lorie King Rogers
Lorie King Rogers, associate editor, joined Modern in 2009 after working as a freelance writer for the Casebook issue and show daily at tradeshows. A graduate of Emerson College, she has also worked as an editor on Stock Car Racing Magazine.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Peek Inside Trinchero’s New Automated Warehouse
When Trinchero Family Estates, one of the world's top wineries, consolidated its bottling and distribution with production, they knew they needed to ramp up speed and throughput. Partnering with Swisslog helped them achieve that goal—and more.
Download Today!
From the March 2017 Modern Materials Handling Online Issue
If the early attendee forecast is any indication, you may have already landed in Chicago for ProMat 2017 (April 3-6), the materials handling industry’s leading trade show and educational conference, sponsored by MHI.
Lawson Products: Automation that fits
Lawson’s multi-purpose distribution center
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2016 Warehouse/DC Operations Webcast: Confronting omni-channel complexity
During this webcast we’ll examine the current activities, trends, and best practices in warehouse and DC operations management and how companies plan to address complex issues associate with omni-channel fulfillment.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 Productivity Achievement Awards
Modern’s annual Productivity Achievement Awards honor companies that have made exceptional...
Johnson & Johnson: A vision for automation
J&J Vision Care brings together a variety of automated technologies, including an innovative...

Using AGVs at LEDVANCE
The lighting manufacturer reaped savings by reducing maintenance costs and product damage, and using...
System Report: Sustainable Distribution at REI
Specialty outdoor retailer REI’s new distribution center brings together the next generation of...