Electro-Matic Products

Top Robot Vision System Maintenance Tips To Prevent Inaccuracies & Failures

Posted by Christine Davidson on Jan 16, 2014 11:50:00 AM



In the world of advanced automation technology, the field of robot vision systems is developingrapidly. Currently, these systems typically fall into one of two categories:

  • Vision Inspection Robots – The robot is used to position the machine vision system for inspecting the parts

  • Vision Guided Robots – The vision system is used to identify, locate and guide the robot for part transfer or assembly

Robot vision systems are immensely useful in overall factory automation efforts, but systems must be maintained properly to achieve their intended purpose. You may be surprised at the simplicity of these suggestions, but don’t underestimate the effectiveness of the following four maintenance tips for you to take under advisement:

Lighting Maintenance Is Crucial To Retain Reliability

Most lighting systems exhibit a decrease in lumen output over time. Some lights can have drastic lumen output reduction in as little as six months (e.g. fluorescent lights lose 60% of their output in the first six months). This is especially important to note considering that the success of your vision system depends on image contrast; in other words, the ability to convert the image into black and white by using lighting to create contrast.

Other considerations to note are that as light output is reduced, software tools have to work increasingly harder to create contrast. When the image edges become softer, accuracy suffers. Adjusting the robot vision system’s aperture to compensate is not always the answer. You should consider the effects to focal depth before making any adjustments.

Sometimes lighting is chosen based on cost, and sometimes it is chosen based on its effect. But whatever lighting method you’ve chosen for your robot vision system, maintenance is crucial.

#1 Maintenance Tip: change the bulb based on the life expectancy of the light (whether it’s six months for most fluorescent bulbs or several years for some LED lights).

Proper Lens Care Prevents Software Tool Failures

Scratches, dirt and debris on a robot vision system lens can put artificial features on the image of the part being inspected, or can even mask features altogether. Taking care of robot vision lenses is like taking care of a pair of eyeglasses; anything on the lens can impact the reading accuracy. Lenses should be clean and free of dirt.

The type of tool used to clean any given lens of a robot vision system is going to depend on the type of lens. Each manufacturer provides best practice details for how to clean the lens, so be sure to follow those directions for your best results.

#2 Maintenance Tip: Consistent upkeep to remove smudges, dirt and debris from the robot vision lens will help prevent faulty reads. Follow lens manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations for best results.

Have A Spec Document For Camera-Focusing Procedures

Robot vision camera focusing may need to be done very precisely depending on your application. What you are doing with that camera determines the procedure for replacing and calibrating.

Modifying the camera focus can cause the robot vision system to go out of calibration, as well as cause surface textures and part features to become more or less visible. To protect the integrity of your robot vision system, create a procedure for focusing and recalibrating the vision system for your particular application, and document the settings.

#3 Maintenance Tip: Always secure focus and aperture rings of the robot vision system with set screws, when possible, and document the settings.

Have A Good Backup Of The Configuration/Recovery Procedure

No one expects hardware to fail and it rarely happens at a convenient time. Be sure to document what version of the software was used to create the backup for your robot vision system, because not all backups include systems settings such as an IP address.

Replacing robot vision hardware usually requires focusing and calibration of the system, possibly even quality testing and qualification. Some systems take up to four to six months to work properly and achieve calibration, so it’s really important to back up all of the work.

#4 Maintenance Tip: If the robot vision camera does fail, you don’t want to reengineer it. You want to be able to drop it in with minimal calibration and focus adjustments. Having a backup of the configuration will help avoid having to reset all of the system parameters that can sometimes take months to develop.

When properly maintained, robot vision systems run side-by-side your automation lines with very little mechanical set up or interruption. The added benefit of a robot vision system is high machinery efficiency, reliability and flexibility. Want to know more? Contact us at at 248-478-1182 or send us a message. 


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