An Automatic Part Transfer System (APTS) which consists of a robot equipped with a lowcost sensing device and a versatile gripper is described. The purpose of the system is to be able to transfer randomly-placed parts from a conveyor to a machine tool table or packaging container with a minimum amount of robot program and gripper tooling changes. Ultrasonic pulse-echo ranging is used to determine the location, orientation, size, and overall shape of the object to be handled. Parts are grouped according to dimensional characteristics which dictate how they are to be handled by the gripper. A Pseudo Phase-Change (PPC) gripper is used to handle a variety of part shapes.
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