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Motion Control Resources

NexCOBOT Leverages Intel® Vision Accelerator Design Products to Deliver Robotics with AI for Industry 4.0

NexCOBOT

Solution Brief:

Advancing industrial optimization and automation via the integration of machine vision and AI

Executive Summary:

Robots play a major role in making manufacturing processes more efficient and less labor intensive. They can help control costs and improve quality, as well as increase productivity. The complexity of robotic system design, however, creates obstacles for many manufacturers, and this is made more difficult by the need to identify and integrate subsystems from multiple vendors. 

NexCOBOT, a NEXCOM company, offers a flexible, modular robotics solution integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with machine vision and powered by the new Intel® Vision Accelerator Design products. The solution brings together the insight of artificial intelligence, the mobility of robotics, and the capabilities of machine vision, providing a new level of precision and optimization for manufacturing and industrial implementations.

Challenges:

Increasing automation is key for optimizing manufacturing operations across diverse industries. Traditional machine vision has its limitations, however— typically, it can only conduct defect detection and classification based on fixed rules and work in fixed environments. For example, variations in lighting or the presence of partial obstructions like dust or grease can negatively impact accuracy and quality. The introduction of AI-based approaches makes robotics more flexible, bringing better immunity to changing environmental conditions and the freedom to handle a wide range of inspection tasks. Robotic automation processes can be upgraded with vision systems to handle more complicated tasks. While the benefits of modern AI approaches are clear, integrating such capabilities into traditional machine vision processes can be complex.

As the need for industrial robots continues to rise, so do the demands for components to complete a robotic solution. These components, however, may vary between vendors and customers, making it difficult to standardize and deliver intelligent robotics solutions.

Solution:

The future of robot and machine solutions is a production environment where devices, machines, robots, and sensors are interoperable. NexCOBOT integrates AI-driven vision capabilities into robotics to improve quality and accuracy over traditional machine vision—as well as deliver new levels of flexibility to industrial operations. In a recent pilot, NexCOBOT demonstrates two robots with AI 
vision conducting automotive assembly. This example of low-volume, high-mix manufacturing requires high levels of customization and flexibility. Patterns, colors, and the shape and arrangement of LED modules change frequently. 

In this demonstration, one robot shuffles the plate to change the placement of LED modules. AI vision is then used to take photos of the plate and to classify the right module and color. Based on the AI data, the robot will take the module, plug it in, and run the test, readying the line for production. In traditional assembly lines, the task of choosing colors, patterns, and LED modules would fall to the operator. AI vision can achieve high levels of success and automation even under poor and/or changing environmental conditions.

The NexCOBOT solution is powered by high-performance Intel® technology including the Intel® Celeron® processor and Intel® Core™ i7 processor, and uses the Intel® Ethernet Controller to build EtherCAT-based robot control systems. In addition, the solution leverages the OpenVINO™ toolkit to implement AI inference and Intel® Movidius™ VPUs for computer vision acceleration at the edge.

Unlike many companies providing complete sets of industrial robots, NexCOBOT provides an open and modular solution for users to develop a robot control system that best fits their particular application requirements.

  • Meet the demands of high-mix, low-volume manufacturing
  • Increase accuracy under varying environmental conditions
  • Speed time to results--no need to set up an identical environment each time
  • Use a single statement of purpose (SOP) and model for varying tests and different applications

1. MiniBOT to decide LED pattern

  • Interact with audience
  • Shuffle LED modules

2. AI Vision (OpenVino)

  • Recognize LED modules with correct color
  • Get location of LED modules

3. MiniBOT 7R to assemble LED modules

  • Assemble LED modules
  • Test assembly results

How It Works:

The OpenVINO toolkit includes the Intel® Deep Learning Deployment Toolkit with a model optimizer and inference engine, along with optimized computer vision libraries and functions for OpenCV* and OpenVX*. This comprehensive toolkit supports the full range of vision solutions, speeding computer vision workloads; streamlining deep learning deployments; and enabling easy, heterogeneous execution across Intel platforms from device to cloud.

The Intel Core processor and OpenVINO toolkit are used for inference acceleration, while Intel Celeron processors are used in the robot control system. The OpenVINO toolkit’s Model Optimizer allows AI models to be easily deployed on the Intel platform.

Based on EtherCAT communication, NexCOBOT modular products include embedded computing boards, robot controllers, teach pendants, EtherCAT I/OS, and control cabinets. NexCOBOT’s robot control software, NexGRC*, provides robotic control (PTP, JOG, HOME, LINE, CIRCLE, etc.) and a robot operation user interface. Those robotic control functions always come in dynamic-link library (DLL) API forms so that customers can develop their own GUI for their robot system, or integrate robot control with any other software. To save development time and effort, customers can find components from NexCOBOT to fit in a complex robot control system. 

  • EtherCAT communication to easily expand system’s motion control and I/O (up to 32 slaves)
  • Support commonly used robot types, including 6/7-axis articulated robot, delta robot, or Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA)
  • Powerful utility to configure, test, and simulate robots
  • Robot control API to develop customized GUI or integrate robot control with other software

Integrated with Touch Cloud’s AI software, NexCOBOT’s robot control solution can be utilized with a vision solution. Touch Cloud brings AI expertise and experience on imaging and numerical analytics areas. The AI vision system generates inspection results and information, such as object position, for NexCOBOT’s system to follow up the automation process with industrial robots.

Sample Manufacturing Use Cases:

By ensuring that thousands of modular products reach 
the market each year, NexCOBOT supports a variety of robotics use cases, from classification of modules to defect identification and inspection. Operators even interact with machines digitally using a human-machine interface (HMI). Smart factories provide many benefits, including a reduction in operator hours and opportunities to increase throughput, boost yields, improve efficiency, and reduce downtime through insights gained from advanced data analytics.

NexCOBOT smart machinery solutions facilitate the end-to-end linkage of manufacturing processes and simplify the architecture of production lines.

Conclusion:

With preintegrated and prevalidated robotic control modules, the NexCOBOT solution performs precise robotic control for today’s manufacturing plants and Industry 4.0. Together, NexCOBOT and Intel are bringing new levels 
of accuracy and acceleration to solution providers and industries.

Intel Vision Products

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