What parts can be fed with FlexiBowl®?

FlexiBowl® is the suitable solution to feed a vast range of parts with different geometries, surfaces and material within 1-250 mm and 1-300 g. The total weight of the parts can reach up to 7 kg. FlexiBowl® is also able to unravel those components that tend to tangle. Unlike traditional systems based on vibration, FlexiBowl® operation is not influenced by variations of parts dimensions, or burrs or production residues.

What are FlexiBowl® usual feed rates?

The feed rate varies largely based on the type of parts and their optimal picking orientation. Besides, it also depends on the robot, the vision system and the picking system. Typically, the achieved feed rate is between 20 and 50 parts per minute. In specific cases, the rates can be slightly higher or lower.

Is it possible to feed two or more types of parts in one FlexiBowl®?

It is in some cases, thanks to the “Multiple Parts Feeding” option that uses a disc divided into more, independent sectors. We advise you to consult Ars for this kind of application.

How does FlexiBowl® connect to the robot?

FlexiBowl® is designed to interface with any robot. FlexiBowl® and the robot can be connected either through Ethernet (TCP/IP, UDP, Ethernet/IP) or through digital I/Os.

What are the differences between the two connections?

The difference between the two communications is the possibility, or lack thereof, to set the motion parameters of FlexiBowl®. With the TCP/IP connection, the motion parameters can be set directly from the robot controller, thus allowing the variation in accordance to the type of parts currently fed. With the digital I/O connection, the parameters can be set through a PC and a stand-alone program called “FlexiBowl® Parameters”, supplied by ARS. Via digital I/O connections, the robot controller can only give motion commands.

What are the available lighting choices?

FlexiBowl® can be supplied with either backlight or toplight, depending on the parts’ details to detect. ARS suggests preferentially the infrared light. The IR light is easily filtered, allowing a better isolation of environmental light, which can cause problems when detecting the parts. White and red light options are still available as an alternative.

Which commands are possible?

The possible movements are the following:

a) Move (with a specific angle)
b) Shake (clockwise and counter-clockwise movements in a quick sequence)
c) Flip (impulse underneath the disc to make the parts flip and turn)
d) Move + flip (with the combined action of the two movements a better separation and flip effect is achieved)
e) Move + flip + blow

The blow can be combined to those commands, in order to divert the tiniest parts from the external edge.

Which options are available?

These are the available FlexiBowl options:

Brush diverter: a brush used to redirect the parts from the edge

Wedge diverter: a wedge used to redirect the parts from the edge

Quick emptying: an automatic system used to empty FlexiBowl®

Custom grooved disc: customized discs

Multiple parts feeding: It allows feeding multiple parts on the same FlexiBowl®

Round edged disc: The rotary disc, provided with an edge, is available in various colours, textures, resistance and degrees of surface adhesion for FlexiBowl® 200, 350 and 500/E.

Rotary disc: The rotary disc is available in various colours, textures, resistance and degrees of surface adhesion for FlexiBowl® 500, 650 e 800.

Is it possible to change the rotary disc?

The rotary disc is easily interchangeable and is available in various materials, selectable according to the characteristics of the parts to feed (shape, colour or material surface). For example, if the parts are plastics and cylindrical, a Spike surface, equipped with anti-rolling pins, may be indicated. In case of highly adherent parts (i.e. rubber and silicon membranes) the suggested disc will be a rough surface to ease the separation. For further details, consult the surfaces technical manual in our download area.

Which software programmes are supplied with FlexiBowl®?

We supply a PC application called “FlexiBowl Parameters” to change the movement parameters and the IP address. With this application is also possible to carry out sequences of movements, in order to find the best set of commands experimentally.

How does FlexiBowl® feed the parts?

It is necessary to pair FlexiBowl® with a vibrating bulk feeder. The commands are given to the bulk feeder according to the quantity of parts that the vision system detects. By doing so, you can easily obtain a uniform distribution of the parts, avoiding stacks that might make the system performance worse. The user could still regulate the filling easily, by acting on the software parameters or simply by regulating the bulk feeder itself. Therefore, the integration of a feeding system is extremely simple. Ars has a vast choice of bulk feeders in its catalogues, for any necessity. If a process requires more autonomy, it is possible to add a motorized hopper and a conveyer belt. The bulk feeder must be always present though, to guarantee the correct control of the parts’ flow.

What are FlexiBowl® lead times?

FlexiBowl® is a standard system. Our production follows an assembly-to-order (ATO) strategy, with all its parts in stock. The maximum lead-time to ship is 4 week, from the order acknowledgement.

Which vision systems are compatible with FlexiBowl®?

FlexiBowl® is compatible with all the robot vision guidance systems, such as Fanuc, Epson, Cognex, Keyence, Sick, Data Logic, Sensorpart, Omron, MVtec, etc.

Installation guidelines

Download the installation guidelines

FlexiBowl® Installation Guidelines

Support Base and Robot Placement

  1. The support base on which FlexiBowl® is installed should be as rigid as possible, in order to minimize the transmission of vibrations to the camera.
  2. The robot should be able to pick the parts on the entire vision area of FlexiBowl®, at any necessary angle. It is fundamental to ensure there is no collision between the robot arm and FlexiBowl®.

Camera Installation

  1. The camera should be installed rigidly, centred and vertical above FlexiBowl® picking area, in order to make the entire surface visible. Regulations in all directions and a strong fixing are advised. Check the handbook and the drawings in the download area of our website for details.

Choosing the Correct Vision System

  1. In order to choose the correct vision system, keep in consideration that:
    -The camera must determine the position of the parts accurately and detect all its essential details;
    -The vision system must be able to manage all the necessary cameras;
    -It must have a compatible elaboration time in comparison to the required feed rate;
    -It must be able to keep a database of all of the receipts of the models to feed.

Robot Movement and Lighting Conditions

  1. After picking the part, the robot must move from the camera vision area as rapidly as possible, to allow a quick shooting of a new photo. The robot must not block out the camera vision area during the placing of the parts, or any other operation.
  2. Minimize any disturb produced by environmental light. Prevent any potential rays of light, even when using IR filters.

Lighting and Picking Area

  1. To ensure a homogeneous illumination in toplight applications, the dimension of the light must be adequately measured in comparison to the picking area.
  2. In some applications, due to the FlexiBowl® movements, some parts can accidentally fall out from the picking area. According to the type of parts and the requirements of the application, it might be necessary to install dedicated protections. These protections must not obstruct the picking area for the robot.

Handling Parts and System Accuracy

  1. If you are using a gripper, its fingers must be as slim as possible, so that the littlest space will be reserved as a free zone for picking. It is always advisable to use, where possible, non-bulky picking systems (i.e. suction gripper or inside/above picking systems).
  2. In those systems where an elevated accuracy (some tenths of mm) is required, we advise the use of “re-centring grippers” or “re-centring intermediary positioning” in order to guarantee the most accurate final placing.

Payload and Performance Considerations

  1. It is unadvised to exceed the maximum payload value or the parts' total weight.
  2. The FlexiBowl® system is based on a random principle; therefore, the parts’ availability is not always constant in time. When talking about performances, what we mean by “average feeding rate” is the average “pick and place time” in a few minutes period, without taking into consideration any possible waiting time due to other parts of the implant. We can make tests to determine the feed rate of each part and to verify if/how often a delay can happen.

Feeding Multiple Different Parts and other applications

  1. The simultaneous feeding of multiple different parts in the same feeder is possible only in rare cases.
    We advise you to consult ARS for this kind of application.
  2. If different parts from the ones that must be fed are present in the vision area, the camera will not recognise them and the robot will not pick them. This will not create any problems to the system itself, but the final feed rate performance may be affected, up to the possible saturation point.
  3. The robot could remove any “wrong” parts only in rare cases. We advise you to consult ARS for this kind of application.