Sorting coat hangers using robots is no mean feat. Anything with hooks attached to it adds a serious level of difficulty to any automation task, nigh impossible some would argue.
However, we have developed a robotic coat hanger picking system with our machine building partner. The remit was to inspect and sort hangers using a robot. The reality required a lot of technology to make it work.
The following list is just some of the scope:
- Locate coat hangers in a flow of hangers on a conveyor belt
- Identify the hanger type
- Inspect the hanger to verify it is intact
- Verify the hanger is clear of other hangers
- Pick the hanger!
There are other challenging requirements:
- If the hanger type has trouser movable clips attached to it, verify that the clips are in the right place
- If the identified hanger is located on top of another hanger, make sure it really is on top
- Is the hook attached to a neighbouring hanger?
- The list goes on...
Using a combination of Scorpion 3D Stereo vision cameras with RPP lasers and LED light sources to create 3D models of the picking scene in real time, has been the key to this application. Using very fast computers with a highly optimised real-time 3D machine vision algorithm has been critical to the success.
The vision system sorts one hanger per second. The impact for the customer is a significant reduction in manpower required to prcoess hangers manually.
The green impact could be significant. If this addresses just a fraction of the more than 34 billion hangers that go into landfill every year then that is surely a great start.