Why bin picking is so difficult

As humans, it’s easy for us to pick up our smartphone and put it in our pockets. It’s a movement we carry out dozens of times per day, burnt into our muscle memory. For any robot out there, it’s a whole different ball game.

Automated robot bin picking is seen as one of the biggest technological challenges of our time. It is quite a task to make a robot pick randomly sorted objects out of a bin and place them in a different location (like a shelf or a conveyor belt) in an aligned position. Using 3D vision and sensors, the robot scans the location where it needs to pick an object from and how it has to position the picking arm.

Traditionally, robots are used for repetitive tasks such as screwing lids on bottles, for example. These robots aren’t smart. Though they do have sensors, they only behave the way they do because they were programmed to do so. On top of that, the bottles they are interacting with all have to be placed in the exactly same position, every time. If the chain suddenly accelerates or some bottles tip over, the robot’s movements would not adapt to this and it would carry on with its movements as if nothing went wrong.

Bin picking, on the other hand, consists of an array of tasks that are never the same. Imagine that the same bottles we mentioned are randomly lying inside a container and they have to be put on a conveyor belt. A robot would need to have exceptional vision and sensors to differentiate all those bottles. Then an even trickier action follows: the robot has to move towards the bottle it chose to pick, without damaging any other bottles.

Thanks to Pick-it's vision engines, any robot can find the position and orientation of parts in bins and our technology allows you to select a bin collision prevention strategy so that certain unreachable parts are not sent to the bin-picking robot for picking.

Video: Bin picking by Pick-it is set up in 25 minutes

The benefits are endless. Robots equipped with a Pick-it camera and software cut the costs of bin picking performed by humans significantly, are faster in execution and production, are more flexible and increase employee well-being. On top of that, Pick-it’s bin picking solution can be setup in just one day. And if you're really good at it, like our colleague Phil, you can even do it in no more than 25 minutes.

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