Global ROS-I Community Meeting

Thanks to our presenters, Paul Evans (host), Paul Hvass, Matt Robinson, Min Ling Chan, Dave Coleman, and Mirko Bordignon for an informative session on ROS-Industrial projects seeking community involvement.  This web meeting, held on 16 May 2017, is the second Global ROS-I Community Web Meeting. Scroll down below the video for abstracts.

Recording of the Global ROS-I Community meeting held on 16 May, 2017

  • Paul Evans (ROS-Industrial Americas and SwRI): Welcome and review of the agenda.  The Global Community Web Meeting focused on open source projects seeking broader community participation.
     
  • Paul Hvass (PlusOne Robotics): Outgoing ROS-I Americas Program Manager message to the community and introduction of incoming ROS-I Americas Program Manager.
     
  • Matt Robinson (Transitioning to ROS-Industrial/SwRI): Incoming ROS-I Americas Program Manager greeting to the community.
     
  • Min Ling Chan (ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific and A*STAR): PackML Business Analytics Dashboard
    • Highlighted a PackML (Packaging Machine Language) project focused on creating an ability to run ROS across multiple OEM PLCs for manufacturing plants for communication between PLCs, increased interoperability, modularity, and efficiency.  Proposed is a new Business Analytics Dashboard to provide users an intuitive display of the real-time root cause analysis and OEE.
  • Paul Hvass (PlusOne Robotics): Sensor Configuration and Calibration Assistant
    • Presented a project to create a graphical user interface for the industrial calibration package with preset configurations for the most common calibration cases to simplify the calibration process.
  • Dave Coleman (PickNik): MoveIt! Code Sprint – Minimum Cycle Time Motion for Bin Picking
    • Introduced the MoveIt! Code Sprint focused on integrating existing academic motion planners into MoveIt! that have the potential to improve cycle time, optimize existing planners, and systematically compare performance for industrial use cases.
  • Mirko Bordignon (ROS-Industrial Europe and Fraunhofer IPA): The ROSIN Project
    • Provided an overview of the new ROSIN European initiative.  ROSIN was launched to bring ROS to the factory floor with a focus on improving software quality.  Included is a targeted investment for ROS-Industrial Focused Technical Projects.  Educational activities are included as a key component of the initiative to support wider adoption.

Q&A Session with Incoming ROS-Industrial Americas Program Manager

Submitted by Paul Evans, Southwest Research Institute and ROS-Industrial

Last month, in an email blast to the community, we shared the exciting news that Matt Robinson will be joining SwRI to lead the ROS-Industrial Americas open source program as Paul Hvass moves on to a new startup company.  Matt has a passion for ROS-Industrial and a vision for how to address a variety of advanced manufacturing topics and technologies.  I recently visited with Matt and want to share some of the highlights, via a question and answer format. 

Q: When did you first become interested in a career in advanced manufacturing and robotics?

A: During a facility launch project during my time at Caterpillar, we had the chance to introduce automation into this new plant. There were challenges around high mix, variation management, and quality expectations that seemed difficult to manage the costs using a manual process, but certainly hills to climb with automation. The automation that was implemented definitely enabled us to realize our goals, but it dawned on me there was a lot left to be desired when it comes to capability and getting these solutions to perform as desired in an efficient manner. This began a journey for me, to not just seek to implement and leverage automated solutions, but to continuously push the envelope on capability.

Q: What value did you see in the ROS-Industrial open source program that drew you to explore using it for real-world manufacturing applications?

A: The extensibility and capability. Leveraging perception to drive process and build on that intelligence to execute and manage processes. Scan-N-Plan is a great example of capability that is driving the opportunity to process in a new and exciting way. 

The extensibility is key in both the make of the robot that can be utilized as well as the vintage. For some companies, where every brand can occur at a site, and at times they can be a few generations old, this is key in realizing maximum value out of existing assets.

Q: As you reflect on the progress of ROS-Industrial over the course of the past five years, what are two or three of the core components of the program that you believe have had the most impact for industry?

A: The ability to deliver more advanced capability over traditional industrial hardware. This may be trivial, but when you can leverage something that is familiar to do something novel, that goes a long way into building acceptance and confidence. Another component that is impactful, in my view, is the industry roadmapping approach to the program. This is key to build around the core problems of industry and then allow technology development to evolve around these core challenges. This sets a sustainable path and enables prioritization to ensure solutions are developed that are meaningful and have a chance to be adopted and matured through vetting in real factory conditions.

Q: The ROS-Industrial Consortium is now global and 50 members strong. Can you share some thoughts about where you would like to see the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas accomplish next?

A: The diversity of the Consortium is exciting and a true asset to its health. I would like to see more integrators become engaged and excited to pull the capabilities into their solution sets. Ideally this becomes a vehicle to refine further solutions and provide a more direct service model for deployed solutions. I’m curious to collect more feedback from these deployers to our industry end-users to understand more about their concerns, road blocks, and needs.

I also would like to think more about how we prove industry ready. The blending milestones have been interesting in this regard, having been involved in two of the Blending Focused Technical Projects. The feedback from the integrator regarding the readiness for use in one of their delivered solutions was eye opening, and it drives a lot of thought around how can we ensure capabilities are as ready as can be, to be adopted, molded, and essentially “ready for deployment.”  This is a key challenge that I’m personally excited to work on developing.

Thank you, Matt, for your Q&A. We are excited about the next leg of our journey.

Once Matt is fully settled in his new role, he plans on posting a note to the community with his contact information and some highlights of upcoming events.  We are excited to have Matt join Mirko Bordignon (ROS-I Europe) and Min Ling Chan (ROS-I Asia Pacific) on the leadership team.  We value his strong manufacturing roots and his commitment to keep the initiative focused on capabilities, tools, and applications that will be strategic for industry adoption.

If you have any questions regarding this blog post you may contact Paul Evans at paul.evans <at> swri.org.

Recap: Successful ROS-I Consortium Americas Meeting in Chicago

On April 7, the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas hosted its annual meeting in Chicago following on the heels of the Automate show. The meeting brought together more than 60 people from across the industrial robotics industry to learn about, discuss, and plan for the future of open source software for manufacturing automation. The Consortium is now a world-wide organization led by SwRI in the Americas, Fraunhofer IPA in Europe, and A*STAR ARTC in the Asia Pacific region.

The annual meeting demarked a number of milestones for ROS-I:

The ROS-I Consortium Americas meeting brought together representatives from across industry including end users, system integrators, robot OEMs, automation equipment OEMs, and researchers.

The ROS-I Consortium Americas meeting brought together representatives from across industry including end users, system integrators, robot OEMs, automation equipment OEMs, and researchers.

The Open Source Robotics Foundation was represented by Tully Foote who took questions during an open mic session, and also led a round table roadmapping discussion about ROS/ROS 2 core.

The Open Source Robotics Foundation was represented by Tully Foote who took questions during an open mic session, and also led a round table roadmapping discussion about ROS/ROS 2 core.

Matthew Robinson from Caterpillar gave an inspiring keynote presentation on the topic of Flexible Automation for Manufacturing in Heavy Industries.

Matthew Robinson from Caterpillar gave an inspiring keynote presentation on the topic of Flexible Automation for Manufacturing in Heavy Industries.

The ROS-I Consortium is global! Each regional program manager presented an update about the progress and future plans for his/her region. Left to right: Min Ling Chan from RIC-Asia Pacific, Dr. Mirko Bordignon from RIC-Europe, and Paul Hvass from RIC-Americas.

The ROS-I Consortium is global! Each regional program manager presented an update about the progress and future plans for his/her region. Left to right: Min Ling Chan from RIC-Asia Pacific, Dr. Mirko Bordignon from RIC-Europe, and Paul Hvass from RIC-Americas.

During the afternoon session, Consortium members organized into groups to discuss specific technical roadmapping thrusts. 

During the afternoon session, Consortium members organized into groups to discuss specific technical roadmapping thrusts. 

Meeting attendees also met with Focused Technical Project moderators to talk about one of the five new project topics that were introduced for 2017.

Meeting attendees also met with Focused Technical Project moderators to talk about one of the five new project topics that were introduced for 2017.

One of the chief benefits of the Consortium is the ability of members to sponsor Focused Technical Projects. These projects expand the capabilities of ROS-I and costs are shared by participating members so their resources are multiplied by their collaborators. This year, five project topics were announced and then discussed in a round table forum:

  • Collaborative Robotic Fastener Installation
  • Sensor Configuration and Calibration Assistant
  • MoveIt! Code Sprint
  • ROS-I Business Analytics Dashboard
  • Robotic Edge Processing

To learn more about the ROS-I Consortium, please visit the Join Now page.

Call for Videos for ROS-I and MoveIt! Montages

Southwest Research Institute is providing video editing services to create two separate video montages celebrating the anniversary of two respective ROS-based open source projects. Please visit the video submission page to upload your video for one of the following montages:

  • ROS-Industrial (i.e. factory or manufacturing applications of ROS)
  • MoveIt! (i.e. motion planning examples regardless of application/market)

Deadline: 28 March, 2017

Some guidelines for all video submissions:

  • No cost for submission
  • You will receive a link to upload upon submission of the form below
  • Please name your files like this: John_Doe_Company_Name_1.mp4, John_Doe_Company_Name_2.mp4, etc.
  • Any number of clips can be uploaded per person/organization
  • Videos must be full HD quality or better to be used
  • Portable device video must have adequate lighting and stabilization
  • We prefer raw video that is not covered with text. borders, etc.
  • We request that something interesting happens in 5 seconds or less, otherwise we reserve the right to accelerate the frame rate
  • We interpret this submission as your consent to use your clip for this singular purpose. We will contact you if other use cases are desired.
  • Don't forget to provide attribution/credit for all parties/collaborators involved in creating your video
  • Use abbreviations for attributions/credits when possible to avoid line wrap
  • If we are blessed to receive more submissions than we can fit in a short 2-3 min video, we will use the following criteria to select from among the available clips:
  • Video quality (stable, in-focus, well-lit)
  • Hardware diversity (robot/sensor brand variation among the ensemble of clips)
  • Originality
  • Professionalism (less duct tape, higher TRL)

Road Map for ROS-Industrial

One of the purposes of the ROS-Industrial Consortium is to generate and maintain the technical road map for ROS-Industrial. This effort started in earnest in 2014 using a process that roughly follows the Sandia National Lab Fundamentals of Roadmapping technique. In summary, the steps include:

  1. Define the scope and participants
  2. Create a common vision for the product/technology
  3. Identify stakeholder requirements
  4. Define technology areas
  5. Identify alternatives and gaps
  6. Recommend path(s) forward
  7. Evaluate roadmap
  8. Develop implementation plans

The participants in the roadmapping were members of the ROS-Industrial Consortium who are typically involved in manufacturing on a daily basis. The Vision for ROS-Industrial (step 2) is to provide an open and flexible framework for manufacturing automation development that:

  • Supports advanced robotics capabilities for manufacturing
  • Standardizes interfaces for cross-platform compatibility
  • Modularizes and scales components to larger systems
  • Enables a collaborative development environment
  • Develops the workforce through training curriculum and hands-on classes
  • Transfers technology and reduces implementation costs via open source license
  • Advances manufacturing productivity
  • Improves worker well being

To identify stakeholder requirements for the technology (step 3), we began by collecting example high-priority present and future robotic automation use cases that needed advanced software to enable them. From there we worked backwards, reverse engineering each application to enumerate the technical building blocks that would be needed to assemble a solution (refer to the Mobile Material Handling example below).

Example decomposition of building blocks for the mobile material handling application.

Example decomposition of building blocks for the mobile material handling application.

We then looked for commonality among those building blocks as a means to define technology areas (step 4) and to prioritize them (below).

Technology areas identified 

Technology areas identified 

The resultant roadmap document identifies alternatives and gaps for each technology area and makes recommendations (steps 5-6). To visualize the roadmap, we presented the data as a traditional timeline (refer to picture below). And while we've made progress in most of the anticipated areas, it is not possible to guarantee specific progress without a similarly guaranteed budget.

In 2016, after receiving additional input from our international collaborators and new members, we sought to refresh this roadmap, and generated the attached infographic to blend the technology areas with the arrow of time in a single graphic (below). Technical thrusts are arranged vertically in order of priority (foundational capabilities starting at the bottom, and ascending toward higher-complexity and/or dependent goals near the top). We also added the orthogonal axis with software quality and reliability characteristics to indicate cross-cutting goals for all capabilities. In early 2017, this vision for ROS-I infographic was ratified by a vote of our Consortium Advisory Committee.

ROS-I Consortium Annual Meeting to Feature Eight Noted Speakers

Meeting to be held April 7 in Chicago

  • Keynote speaker Matthew Robinson, Caterpillar
  • Brett Hemes, 3M
  • Trent Weiss, The Boeing Company
  • Dr. Steve Turek, Manufacturing USA
  • Tully Foote, OSRF
  • Min Ling Chan, ARTC
  • Mirko Bordignon, Fraunhofer IPA
  • Paul Hvass, SwRI
Click the image above to download a printable flier for the ROS-I Consortium Americas Annual Meeting.

Click the image above to download a printable flier for the ROS-I Consortium Americas Annual Meeting.

Recap: Successful ROS-I Kinetic Training Class - Curriculum Available

The ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas hosted a ROS-Industrial Developers Training Class February 13-15, 2017, at SwRI located in San Antonio, Texas. A diverse set of organizations including Air Force Research Lab, The Boeing Company, Caterpillar, National Research Council Canada, SwRI, The University of Texas at Austin, and Yaskawa America Inc. Motoman Robotics Division were represented by 17 attendees. The three-day class was geared toward individuals with a C++ programming background who sought to learn to compose their own ROS nodes.

  • Day 1 focused on introductory ROS skills.
  • Day 2, the class examined motion planning using MoveIt! as well as using the Descartes path planner.
  • Day 3 included an introduction to perception and culminated with lab programming exercises (with a choice of): Pick-and-Place Application, Descartes Application.

Many thanks to Jeremy Zoss and Levi Armstrong who led the training class. Additional thanks to Austin Deric, Jonathan Meyer, and Geoffrey Chiou who updated the training curriculum to ROS Kinetic. The training curriculum is open-source and available here.

For more details about this class, see the event page.

If you are interested in attending the next class, keep an eye on this event page.

ROS Testing, Continuous Integration, and Deployment RIC Web Meeting

From time to time the ROS-Industrial Consortia hold focused meetings based on member interests and requests.  We recently held such a meeting on 1/31/17 to discuss testing, continuous integration, and deployment.  The meeting brought experts from the ROS community to present on tools and best practices for developing and deploying production systems that are built on ROS.  Specific presentations included:

  • Tully Foote  (OSRF) - Continuous integration and Test on the ROS Build Farm
  • Isaac Saito (TORK) - ROS-Industrial CI
  • Phillip Reed (SwRI) - Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment
  • Jeremy Adams (Intelligrated) - Lightning Talk - Using Mocks and Fakes in ROS
  • Florian Weißhardt  (Fraunhofer IPA) - Lightning Talk - Automated Test Framework – Testing Applications in ROS

The purpose of the meeting was to inform ROS users about existing options and encourage further discussions within the ROS community on topics related to testing, CI, and deployment. These discussions will continue on ROS Discourse.

First Global ROS-I Community Web Meeting

Thanks to our presenters, Dr. Conghui Liang (who also hosted), Georg Heppner, Dr. Suraj Nair, and Louise Poubel for an inspiring Global ROS-I Community Web Meeting on 10 January 2017! For details, scroll to abstracts and links below the video.

Host: Dr. Conghui Liang (Research Fellow), Robotics Research Center, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (representing ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific)

Agenda:

  • Dr. Conghui Liang (NTU): An Introduction of RADOE (A*STAR Industrial Robotics Project) and ROS related projects in NTU (video link)
    • RADOE (Robot Application Development and Operating Environment) is developed based on ROS and ROS-Industrial. It is an incorporation of high-level robotic software and useful tools that have been developed in the A*STAR industrial robotics research program for diversified robotics application developments in the manufacturing sector. In this talk, an overview of the RADOE motivation, architecture design, function modules, and several application demos will be presented.
  • Georg Heppner (FZI): ReApp Project – MDE for ROS & Generic IO for FANUC Robots (video link)
    • Reusable Software Apps for Robotic Applications (ReApp) based on ROS-Industrial is nearing its completion. This presentation will give an introduction into its core ideas and tools for model-driven engineering of ROS packages with semantic support. Additionally, the implementation of the Generic I/O communication package which was used for a FANUC industrial robot in one of ReApps pilot demonstrators will be covered.
  • Dr. Suraj Nair (TUM CREATE): Robotics at TUM CREATE, Singapore: Insight into ROS based Projects (video link)
    • TUMCREATE, Singapore is a research outpost of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Germany. Although its main focus is on future mobility applied to public transportation, the robotics activities at TUMCREATE have been expanding rapidly. This presentation will focus on the various robotics activities at TUMCREATE with special emphasis on the Aviation Challenge 2 project. For each of the activities, the connection to ROS will also be presented.
  • Louise Poubel (OSRF): Gazebo UX Test Drive (video link)
    • Gazebo is one of the most used simulators in the ROS community. It has been under heavy development for the past few years and its most recent version, Gazebo 7, comes with several new tools and features for new and experienced users alike. Updates include not only improved GUI tools and documentation for new users, but also tools that streamline the workflow for experienced users. In this presentation, many of these new features will be demonstrated from within Gazebo.

RIC- Europe Event Recap (Part 2): ROS-Industrial Training and Conference 2016

Note: Part 1 of the RIC-Europe Event Recap covered the ROS-Industrial training and was posted last week and can be found below.

This year’s ROS-Industrial Conference was upgraded, and held over two days with 21 talks, more than doubling last year's ten talks. Brian Gerkey from the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and formerly of Willow Garage, where ROS was born, gave the first keynote which talked about the origins and recent and upcoming developments of ROS. He gave also an overview about the development and current status of the community and presented a variety of industrial use cases using open source software. Prof. Michael Beetz, an authority in the field of cognitive robotics, delivered the second keynote. His presentation dealt with the very important topic of digital infrastructure to empower service robots with a shared and open knowledge base, as market and technology developments foresee different robots in different environments performing different tasks. The presented platform openEase is possibly the most advanced open-source platform for a web-based knowledge service allowing for collection, storage and inspection of activity data for robot and human tasks.

Dr. Brian Gerkey opened the ROS-Industrial Conference with a keynote about the origins of ROS and recent developments.

Dr. Brian Gerkey opened the ROS-Industrial Conference with a keynote about the origins of ROS and recent developments.

Next up, companies ZenRobotics, PAL Robotics and next47 (a Siemens company), gave an overview about how ROS powers their business, or, in the case of next47, is seen as a common trait for up-and-coming robotics startups. After that, the participants got an overview of the most interesting technical developments going on in ROS and ROS-Industrial. Some of the works were presented recently at ROSCon and IROS in South Korea less than a month before, and we were glad to update our audience on such recent content. Part of the technical talks were:

  • A presentation of the service robot Care-O-bot from Fraunhofer IPA, held by Dr. Ulrich Reiser
  • A case-study on the ROS navigation stack and about deterministic timing for ROS, presented by Ingo Lütkebohle from BOSCH Corporate Research
  • Matthias Gruhler from Fraunhofer IPA presented a solution to improve the navigation of industrial service robot fleets using cloud computing
  • A status update about ROS 2.0 and about OPC UA was given by Matthias Keinert from University of Stuttgart The first conference day came to an end with insights into Team Delft’s technologies enabling their win of the Amazon Picking Challenge. Last but not least, Martin Hägele, head of department robot and assistive systems at Fraunhofer IPA, gave a detailed overview about ongoing developments in the worldwide robotics market. His talk covered both industrial and service robots and presented data which is collected annually by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and published in the “World Robotics Report.”
Prof. Michael Beetz presented the second day's keynote.

Prof. Michael Beetz presented the second day's keynote.

Prof. Martijn Wisse from TU Delft opened the second conference day and described a new funding strategy for ROS-Industrial focused Technical Projects set to start in 2017. Further technical talks complemented the morning session with the following content:

  • Bernard Dieber from Johanneum Research talked about application-level security for ROS-based applications
  • Real-Time Extension to ROS was the topic of the presentation from Jan Carstensen, working at Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • A framework for quality assessment of ROS applications was presented by André Santos from INES TEC

For the ROS-Industrial consortia it is important to offer not only technical knowledge during the events but also to transfer knowledge about non-technical but highly relevant topics such as “best practices” related to open-source software and ROS. One example is the question of how to deal with safety regulations when using ROS. Theo Jacobs from Fraunhofer IPA presented some “do’s and don’ts’” with respect to safe software and to the development and application of ROS components. He gave some information about the ISO standardization committees and their procedures for establishing standards. Carsten Emde from the Open Source Automation Development Lab gave insights into open source in industrial automation, which is in fact already a reality in this business domain. He spoke about Linux and some well-known and also less well-known hurdles for its use in automation and how they are or will soon be taken, such as SIL2 certification for base components of a Linux RTOS, currently undergoing at OSADL.

Dr. Catharina Maracke from the Software Compliance Academy held the last non-technical talk about “Unterstanding License Compatibility and Compliance Risks and Processes in Free Open Source Software”. She informed, among others, about different types of licenses, their advantages and constraints and the OpenChain project that aims to address free and open source software-related friction points in the software supply chain. It was the second talk Dr. Maracke gave for the ROS-Industrial consortia, marking a continued collaboration given the interest expressed by our community in these topics. Both Fraunhofer IPA and the RIC-EU consortium are specifically concerned to keep the attention high on these matters as they often represent the reasons why open source software has still some difficulties to be widely adopted within the more conservative industrial automation environment.

Get-together during the breaks

Get-together during the breaks

Before the conference wrapped up, the following topics were presented in a last technical track:

  • Sebastian Brunner from German Aerospace Center (DLR) spoke about RAFCON, a graphical tool for task programming
  • Ontology-driven tools for robot application development were the aim of the ReApp project that was presented by Dr. Björn Kahl from Fraunhofer IPA
  • Pablo Quiles Velilla ended the track with his presentation about drag&bot, an innovative and easy way for industrial robot programming

All in all, the ROS-Industrial training and conference offered extensive technical and non-technical knowledge, a variety of best practices and was also a good opportunity to get in contact with the ROS and ROS-Industrial communities and to widen the network. Thanks again to the colleagues from FH Aachen, to all speakers and of course to all participants of the event(s)!

For your reference, the detailed agenda of the whole event as well as all slides from the speakers can be found here. A picture gallery from the training as well as from the conference is available here. Please have in mind: The follow-up event in 2017 will be the ROS-Industrial Summit at RoboBusiness Europe 2017 on April 20-21 in Delft, the Netherlands. The next ROS-Industrial conference is planned for the first half of December 2017.

RIC- Europe Event Recap (Part 1): ROS-Industrial Training and Conference 2016

Note: Part 2 of the RIC-Europe Event Recap will cover topics and presentations presented at the conference. This article will be posted next week.

We had a full house at this year’s event combining ROS-Industrial training, managed by our colleagues from FH Aachen with guest lectures from representatives of PPM AS and IT+Robotics srl, and the ROS-Industrial Conference. From November 2 to November 4, Fraunhofer IPA, the managing organization of the ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe, hosted the event in Stuttgart with in total about 70 participants during the three days. The training and conference were combined and showcased updated formats. For participants, it was easier to attend both activities to get the most out of their visit.

For the training session, we collaborated with our new Consortium member FH Aachen. Thanks to Josef Schleupen who coordinated with his colleagues Harshavardhan Deshpande, Heiko Engemann, Jannik Hoppe and Patrick Wiesen, this event was very successful, especially in providing hands-on sessions for all participants. We covered the main aspects of ROS in one day by giving an introduction into ROS and ROS-Industrial, an overview about ROS-powered robotics and the community. During the first day, FH Aachen tutors presented and tutored the participants in hands-on sessions, performed in pairs, on the usual topics of perception (sensor technologies, image processing and ROS visualization), localization (transformation, mapping & navigation) and manipulation (unified robot description, path-planning with MoveIt!, Gazebo Simulator). During the morning of the second day, some ROS-I specific packages were presented by PPMS AS and IT+Robotics srl. During the training, attendees had the chance to get a condensed overview of what ROS can do for them, to see three different robot arms in action, and use an ad-hoc developed mobile platform.

Some impressions from the ROS-Industrial training:

2016-11-IPA-ROS-Events-12.jpg

FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik and ROS-Industrial

Submitted by: Arne Rönnau, FZI

the ros-i powered fanuc m710 on display at Automatica 2016

the ros-i powered fanuc m710 on display at Automatica 2016

The FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik (FZI Research Center for Information Technology), an independent research institute associated with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany, has a long standing history of working with various robotic frameworks for a number of robot platforms. From special kinematics, like a six-legged walking robot or two-armed service robot with body joints on a mobile platform, to service and industrial robots like the UR 10 and the Fanuc M710. Since 2000, FZI has developed its own robotic framework MCA (Modular Controller Architecture) which later became MCA2 and which is still used on many robot systems today also outside of FZI. With the increasing popularity and maturity of ROS, however, the focus has shifted towards using and expanding ROS rather than further improving the in-house framework (which is still used for many low-level tasks).

With the release of ROS Diamondback, FZI started to use ROS on the robotic Platforms KAIRO III, a snake-like inspection robot, and LAURON IV, a six legged walking robot in conjunction with MCA2. The FZI UAV fleet consisting of Parrot AR-Drones and the Asctec UAVs Pelican and Falcon 8 used ROS Fuerte as the main framework from the start. It was also commonly used to analyze data of the autonomous car CoCar, for which the available visualization tools proved to be very valuable.

The development efforts of ROS components by FZI also increased together with its extended usage. During the preparation of LAURON V for the first SpaceBot Cup by the German Aerospace Center DLR in 2013, initial fixes were provided for libraries such as the SMACH viewer and the robot_web_tools, as they were used extensively to enable autonomous exploration by the walking robot of a Mars-like environment. In October 2014 a larger contribution, the schunk_svh_driver package, was released on behalf of Schunk. It is providing hardware support for one of the most mechanically advanced robotic hands today. In 2016 a driver for the LWA4P with CanOpen support followed. Today the FZI also offers workshops teaching ROS to companies when developers need a concise introduction or just specific help with their projects.

ROS has also become a major research topic in public funded projects. The Human Brain Project (HBP), which FZI takes part in, relies heavily on gazebo as a simulation environment, for which tools like a blender-based intuitive robot designer are being developed. The project ReApp (Reusable robotic Applications for flexible robots), puts ROS-Industrial at its core, and is in fact a team effort with other ROS-focused institutions like Fraunhofer IPA. By adding semantically-enriched models to ROS packages, ReApp further enhances the already reuse-friendly structure of ROS by enabling easier search and automatic replacement of packages. During preparations for Automatica 2016, FZI used the ROS Industrial stack for a Fanuc M710 and implemented the ROS-Industrial-IO REP for Fanuc robots as first contribution to the ROS-Industrial community, which is currently being finalized.

Since August 2016 FZI is part of the ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe, through which it plans to further increase its activities around ROS and ROS-Industrial.

Continuation of Series on ROS-Industrial Development Process - Code Review

This is the continuation of a multiple-post series detailing the ROS-Industrial software development process. The first post in the series described the process of contributing code to the project (steps 1-3 in the figure above). This post is focused on the steps involved in reviewing code up to the point where is can be submitted for release as a ROS package. Note that the starred numbers in the outline correspond to steps in the software development process illustrated above.

  1. When a Pull Request (PR) is issued there is the Travis Continuous Integrations (CI) step (step 4) which happens automatically in the background. The Travis CI performs several operations and if any of the steps below fail, then the PR is marked accordingly for the maintainer. Travis:
    1. Installs a barebones ROS distribution on a fresh Ubuntu virtual machine.
    2. Creates a catkin workspace and puts the repository in it.
    3. Uses wstool to check out any from-source dependencies (i.e. other repositories).
    4. Resolves package dependencies using rosdep (i.e. install packages using apt-get).
    5. Compiles the catkin workspace
    6. Runs all available unit tests

  2. If the PR passes Travis CI and one of the maintainers is satisfied with the changes they post a +1 as a comment on the PR (step 5). The +1 signifies that the PR is ready to be merged all PR require at least one +1 and pass Travis CI before it can be merged.
  3. The next step (step 6) is for the PR to be merged into the main branch. This is done through the GitHub web interface by selecting the “Merge pull request” button. After the PR is merged, all status badges are updated automatically.
  4. Periodically the maintainer will release the package (step 7), which then gets sent to the ROS build farm for Debian creation (more on this next time).
Stay tuned for our final post in the series on steps 8-10 about Debian creation.