How 3D vision from SICK paired with Neadvance software creates a high-tech plug-and-play depalletizing robotics solution

Swift, accurate handling of cartons, such as depalletizing and picking, has become even more crucial amid the recent pandemic. The logistics industry is burgeoning as the demand for life-saving drugs, vaccines, and pharmaceutical products is skyrocketing. When a leading logistics partner for the European pharmaceutical industry, needed three high-resolution, precision robotics cameras for one depalletizing and two picking systems, SICK’s Visionary-S CX paired with Neadvance 3D vision software was the perfect fit. And thanks to PCA Roboter, the customer found a reliable system integrator to provide the complete robotic solution.

From Belgium to 150 million Europeans in 24 hours with 3D vision

The customer's new high-bay warehouse is a key logistics hub for pharmaceutical products across Europe. Placing boxes from pallets in totes, picking boxes out of totes, and labeling them is monotonous, strenuous work that is now done by automated systems. According to orders, pallets are routed automatically out of the warehouse to the depalletizing system.

The Visionary-S CX combined with the machine vision competence from Neadvance detects each carton on the pallet and sends the position data to the robots, which grip one or two cartons and lay them in internal transport totes. Those totes are stored in an automatic warehouse, sending the required cartons to two picking lines that are also equipped with Visionary-S CX. The vision system detects the cartons in the transport totes and guides the picking robot to grip single cartons and place them in front of the shipment labeling system. With these new systems, the customer can increase speed, reduce mistakes, and boost the facility’s output, shortening lead times and preventing supply-chain blockages.

The automated solutions were installed in record time, the result of international collaboration involving SICK’s made-in-Germany Visionary-S CX 3D vision sensor, fine-tuned with Portuguese Neadvance software, and a complete solution provider, PCA, bringing together all technical details and designed the systems as complete working cells with FANUC robots.

“The intensive cooperation and communication between all parties worked very smooth and for a new system, the integration time was really good,” said Thomas Walther, project manager at PCA.

Quick and smooth remote collaboration

Neadvance had already used SICK 3D vision cameras in many automation solutions. Designed for industrial environments with round-the-clock availability, they were the obvious choice here. The tight deadline meant speed was crucial. In only two months, SICK and Neadvance succeeded in delivering a complete plug-and-play solution with remote installation support. The solution was quickly tested on PCA site and then customized to the customer's specifications – without any extra development costs or expertise. What’s more, it can be adapted retrospectively at any time. And even though the pandemic prevented SICK and Neadvance technicians from installing the system on site, the remote installation process proved fast and effective.

Now FANUC robots equipped with Visionary-S CX 3D vision cameras skillfully guide order-picking systems within the distribution center. Fast and effective, they accurately pick boxes from pallets and stack them with the optimal fit according to size and weight. Also, tightly-packed boxes and slip sheets separating the layers on boxes are no problem. The software’s 3D and 2D color detection makes sure the robots recognize slip sheets, which automatically get removed so that the depalletizing process will not get interrupted.

Technical Insights: Detect cartons at a rate up to 2,000 per hour

Compact yet robust, the Visionary-S CX powered by Neadvance software can detect cartons at a rate of up to 2,000 per hour. Regardless of whether it is fixed to a column or mounted on a robot arm, the 3D vision camera delivers highly accurate color and depth data in real time, even when the robot is moving. The 3D vision sensor can operate 24/7 in both absolute darkness and ambient light conditions. Its high-performance visualization tools and reliable 3D and 2D information make it ideal for robotics, intralogistics, and other production-relation quality control tasks. The Visionary-S CX data streaming device is also compatible with most standard programming languages.

A new brother of Visionary-S CX, the Visionary-S AP makes it also possible to program the depalletizing software directly into the device. This will decrease the process complexity even more, and Neadvance will begin to implement this approach soon.

Want to learn more about these types of solutions? Contact a SICK representative today!