The same development software that's enabling the Raven II open-source surgical robotic research platform has been tweaked to bring open-source development to industrial robots.
The ROS-Industrial project is now extending the Robot Operating System (ROS) platform to develop robust, reliable software that meets the needs of manufacturing and industrial applications.
Willow Garage's ROS open-source project provides a common framework of libraries and tools for several different kinds of robots, including configurations for service and research 'bots. As the Raven II combines ROS-based software with university-developed hardware to help accelerate development of surgical robots, ROS-Industrial will combine open-source robotics code with proven industrial robotics.
Willow Garage is collaborating on the project with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and intelligent robot and autonomous mobile solutions provider Adept Technology. The ROS-Industrial project aims to leverage the rapidly growing community of ROS developers, SwRI's experience in transitioning technologies from the research stage to practical applications, and Adept's proven industrial automation. The project's objective is to merge the development opportunities that open-source software offers with the specific, exacting requirements of production and manufacturing, to boost innovation and make robot technologies more transparent.
"We are excited to be working with Adept to bring an open source software platform and the industry's largest applications library to industrial applications," said Steve Cousins, president and CEO of Willow Garage, in a press release. "Willow Garage is committed to making robots the next breakthrough industry by expanding the range of applications while reducing the technical barriers to entry, including the largest concentration of robots currently found in manufacturing."
All ROS-Industrial software can be downloaded free of charge from the repository. ROS-Industrial is a BSD-licensed ROS stack containing libraries, tools, and drivers for industrial hardware. The new project's several goals include creating a community supported by industrial robotics researchers and professionals; creating standard interfaces to stimulate hardware-agnostic software development; providing simple, easy-to-use, and well-documented APIs; and making it easier to apply cutting-edge research in industrial applications using a common ROS architecture.
For example, ROS-Industrial aims to standardize the interfaces to industrial robot arms. Its capabilities include path-planning and dynamic pick-and-place. Currently, the project has demonstrated control of the Adept Viper 650, a 6-axis industrial robot arm. (Watch a short video of the Adept Viper S650 under ROS-Industrial control here.) Earlier, the project demonstrated a ROS-Industrial interface for Motoman's SIA10D 7-axis arm and DX100 controller. (Watch a short video of the Motoman SIA10D under ROS-Industrial control here.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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