by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do Robots Scream For Ice Cream?
The robotics team in the Department of Technological Studies at
Ohio Northern University (ONU) has come up with yet another fun, practical,
and educational use for KUKA industrial robots: free ice cream!
Warms, an ice cream machine,
a PLC, touch panel interface,
ith two KUKA KR3 six axis
topping dispenser, and a camera tied
to vision processing software, the
ONU team erected a fully robotic ice
cream machine that served up scoops
and toppings to about 500 customers
in three days. (Now, that is how to
make a popular robot!).
The goal of this robotic construction was to demonstrate a computer
vision controlled system, constituting a
framework to develop strategies for
bin picking, which is a popular
objective in robotics. Many types of
industry rely on the fast and accurate
bin picking of parts for assemblies.
Adam W. Stienecker, PhD, and
assistant professor of technological
studies at ONU explains the details of
the robotic system operation.
Robots sprinkle toppings on ice cream.
"Essentially, bin picking uses a camera
to locate one of many randomly
located parts in a bin, selecting one
and then grasping it in a known
orientation." In the case of the ice
cream robot, the team researched
bin picking by placing more than one
ice cream scooper on the table for the
robot to locate.
Playing Their Parts
It is important to understand each
of the major components of the ice
cream robot in order to understand its
function as a whole. The Allen-Bradley
Micrologix 1500 Programmable Logic
Controller (PLC) is an industrial computer that is used to take inputs from
customers via the touch panel and send
commands to each of the Kuka robots.
Service at the push of a button!
This article caused me to gain
five pounds while writing it!
The touch panel — also from
Allen-Bradley — is like most touch
screens at mall kiosks, self-checkouts,
and food ordering stations at
mini-marts. Customers enter their
selections on screen and, in this case,
the robots go to work filling the order.
The touch panel takes requests
for specific toppings on the ice cream
and the PLC sets the robots in motion.
The user must follow instructions on
where to place the spoon and cup for
the robots to successfully interact with
and complete the service.
The Point Grey Research Flea2
Fire Wire camera serves as the eye for
the robots. It takes and relays images
of the spoon and its environment to
the computer, which is then processed
so that the robot knows how to pick
Other support hardware includes
a Taylor soft serve freeze and a
Zevro WM300 triple toppings
The use of two KUKA
robots required two robot
programs. The programs, which
were mapped out using flow
charts demonstrating the
consecutive actions of the
robots, sequence each step the
robots take. "Once the flow
10 SERVO 02.2009