An In-depth Guide to Robotic Inspection

In its various forms, robotic inspection has been around for a while. The early 2000s, for instance, saw the wide adoption of drones. Drones can be considered robotic inspection systems with the main difference being that they can do more than just inspection tasks.

Military drones, for example, are used for information gathering rather than inspection. Industrial drones, on the other hand, are used for quality inspection. Construction drones, in particular, are used to map the aerial view of an ongoing construction and inspect for visible flaws that ought to be corrected before the construction proceeds.

Robotic inspection in action
photo credit: YouToube

In the simplest of terms, a robot inspection system can be defined as a robot that employs both advanced sensor technologies and machine vision technologies to determine the quality of a product.

The key components of a robotic inspection system are the ability to find a product or part and then inspect that part accurately; determining whether it is flawless or faulty.

Robotic Inspection Systems Then and Now

Early robot inspection systems were severely limited as they mostly used outdated machine vision technologies such as 2D cameras that could only do so much. Actually, for a while, cameras were only used to guide a robot arm as opposed to any high-level task such as quality inspection.

However, as machine vision technologies have evolved to encompass highly accurate 3D cameras, and an ability to quickly identify objects, inspection is now one of the major applications of robots. With the advent of cobots, and as collaborative robots continue to penetrate more industries than just manufacturing, robotic inspection seems poised to explode.

Analysts predict a myriad of diverse applications once inspection robots become more mainstream. In the meantime, however, inspection robots are accomplishing amazing feats in the manufacturing industry.

What Are Some Current Applications of Robotic Inspection?

Inspection drone

1. Quick Determining of Complete Vs Incomplete Products

In an assembly plant, collaborative robots outfitted with the latest machine vision technologies and sensor systems are used to determine whether an assembly is complete. For example, a robot can be employed at the end of an automotive assembly line to confirm if an engine has been outfitted with the oil filter or not.

The robot can also be used to determine whether a bolt is well fastened or if the exhaust pipe is well secured. Use of robotic inspection in the automotive industry is just one example. The electric and electronics industry also benefits highly from inspection robots.

Determining if all the tiny components that make up a laptop have been incorporated is a good example of robot inspection in the electronics industry.

2. Flaw Detection and Quality Assurance

Possibly, one of the most important applications. A company lives and dies by its reputation. If a certain company somewhere releases faulty devices or products in the market, chances are customers will lose faith and abandon that brand.

While for the longest time, quality inspection has been done by humans, another trend of using robots is quickly taking root. Human quality inspection not only requires a lot of people, it is repetitive, boring, tiring and at some point due to fatigue, the human employee is bound to miss something.

A robot, on the other hand, can perform this task all day and all night with once missing something as long as the robot has been well calibrated and the machine vision and sensor technologies are at par.

Whenever a flawed product is detected, it is removed and either goes back to production for correction or it is completely discarded. Such a system ensures that only quality products get to the market.

Robots welding in a factory

Final Thoughts

It is impossible to exhaust the applications of inspection robotic systems in use today. Measuring, for instance, is yet another application. An inspection robot can be used to determine whether a bolt is exactly where it ought to be or it is a few centimeters off.

With such interesting applications, one can only imagine what the future holds. Experts on robotics insist that robots that can inspect multiple items at the same time are an innovation to watch out for.

Either way, if your company or business is dependent on super accurate product, then inspection collaborative robots are worth considering.