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Engineering Materials

Industrial Robotics Gets Open-Source Boost

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Beth Stackpole
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Does open source change the game?
Beth Stackpole   5/2/2012 6:13:43 AM
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Another great example of the power of open source software. What's your sense, Ann, of how open source can foster the development and functionality of industrial robots? Have there been limitations with the technology and its application due to proprietary standards and platforms?

naperlou
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Re: Does open source change the game?
naperlou   5/2/2012 9:24:39 AM
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Ann and Beth, that is a good question.  I looked at their site, and support is strictly "community" or Willow Garage itself.  There is no paid support.  Open source software in general works becuase there is a paid support option.  You can develop without spending money on the software.  When you are doing something commercial, you can then purchase support, and in some cases a more capable version of the software.  This "upgrade" path is important.  I don't see that here.  I expect that this will remain a research and hobbyist item. 

ttemple
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Linux EMC
ttemple   5/2/2012 9:28:20 AM
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For those interested in such things, www.linuxCNC.org is an open source "CNC" project that derived from work done by NIST in the 90's.

The codebase was started by people at NIST, then went open source when the NIST project ended.  The code has all of the elements of a full motion control system, including trajectory planning, and forward and reverse kinematics modules that allow it to control strange machine geometries such as stewart platforms.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Does open source change the game?
Ann R. Thryft   5/2/2012 1:03:04 PM
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Beth, it's much too soon to know, since this initiative has just begun, and so far, I think there are two industrial robot companies that have shown interest. Industrial robotics seems to be dominated by three or four large companies, all with their own proprietary hardware and software. I'm not at all clear about how this would benefit them. However, we've had discussions in several other comment threads about the complexities of robot control software and the value--and difficulties--of developing easier-to-use point and click software.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Does open source change the game?
Ann R. Thryft   5/2/2012 1:05:10 PM
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naperlou, this initiative is in its early stages, so it's too soon to tell what will happen with support. I think ttext's point is well taken. In addition, the industrial robot companies are huge and have been developing their own software internally for a long time, so their support needs, assuming they are interested in open source, may be quite different from those of individual hobbyist developers. An open source model for the same basic software platform--ROS--is also being pursued in universities for the Raven II surgical robot. Whether or not a ROS-Surgical comes out of that university research will be interesting to see.

apresher
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Open Source Robotics
apresher   5/2/2012 3:27:36 PM
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Thanks, Ann.  Interesting developments.  I know that Adept has been doing more in the area of mobile robotics with an acquisition in the last year or so. It will be interesting to see the direction this type of effort takes and what applications become more the area of focus.

Charles Murray
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Re: Does open source change the game?
Charles Murray   5/2/2012 8:45:23 PM
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Ann, has there been resistance from propietary software developers on this? I remember when Linux starting gaining momentum and Jerry Fiddler of Wind River repeatedly referred to Linux as a "phantasm," before his company finally gave in to the movement.

ChasChas
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Re: Does open source change the game?
ChasChas   5/3/2012 10:19:30 AM
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Good point, naperlou. Just because someone someone wants to "pick their own" for quality, cost and customization, doesn't mean they they won't want support after the sale.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Does open source change the game?
Ann R. Thryft   5/3/2012 3:44:39 PM
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Chuck, I think ROS and definitely ROS-Industrial are all too new for the larger industrial robot companies to have much reaction yet. I plan to follow that up, although I'm finding it difficult to get input. Meanwhile, I think the main point here is letting smaller companies that want to get into robotics do so by giving them some leverage. But your point is well taken--I also remember that reaction to Linux--and I wouldn't be surprised if there is resistance among the larger companies that have done their own internal proprietary development all this time.


Mydesign
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Re: Does open source change the game?
Mydesign   5/4/2012 6:05:33 AM
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Beth, one more area where our open source software is dominating. Am not sure so far any open source software's are used for robotic program in extensive mode. But am sure that this consortium can help to create more innovative developments in the same area.

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