3rd ROS-Industrial Training at Fraunhofer IPA: ROS for Industrial Applications

ROS-Industrial Technology Seminar: "ROS for Industrial Applications"

Friday, October 24, 2014
More information: Stuttgarter Produktionsakademie


The open source “Robot Operating System” ROS offers highly developed robotics software components which can be used in flexible industrial applications. In this praxis-oriented tutorial users will get in touch with the basic functionalities of the ROS framework and the ROS-Industrial initiative. Participants will get an impression about the power of the system and learn how to use it in their own application.

Especially in dynamic environments with a variety of different work pieces there is a demand for highly flexible automation solutions supported by sensors and intelligent software components. A cost efficient, reusable and powerful solution is the open source framework ROS. It offers a huge amount of intelligent algorithms, methods and integrated libraries. An advantage is that software as well as hardware components can easily be exchanged due to a network based communication layer and standardized interfaces. This allows time saving and cost effective software development, which lowers the overall development costs.

In robotics research ROS is a well-established standard. The next step is to bring this power to industrial applications. For this purpose the ROS-Industrial initiative was founded. This tutorial will get the participants in touch with the theoretical basics of ROS and teach how to practically use it for their own industrial application.

Workshop Topics:

* ROS – Introduction and Basics
* 3D-Perception using ROS
* Localization and Navigation using ROS
* Motion Planning with MoveIt!
* Application Development using ROS
* Introduction to ROS-Industrial Initiative

In small groups the attendees will have the chance to gain hands-on experience within those topics under the guidance of experts of the respective field. The seminar is suitable for attendees both with or without experience in using ROS and will be held in bilingual language (German, English).

Also please feel free to forward this E-Mail to your colleagues, project collaborators or those who may be interested in this seminar.

If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Hope to see some of you in October (or for the 4th seminar on Thursday, March 5th, 2015)!

Contact Person:

Dipl.-Ing. Florian Weißhardt Project Manager ROS Industrial Fraunhofer-Institute For Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, Stuttgart Florian.Weisshardt@ipa.fraunhofer.de

Industrial Calibration Library Update and Presentation

By Dr. Chris Lewis, SwRI:

Robotics and automation systems are increasingly reliant on both 2D and 3D imaging systems  to provide both perception and pose estimation. Calibration of these camera/robot systems is necessary, time consuming, and often a poorly executed process for registering image data to the physical world. SwRI is continuing to develop the industrial calibration library to provide tools for state-of-the-art calibration with the goal to provide reliably accurate results for non-expert users. Using the library, system designers may script a series of observations that ensure sufficient diversity of data to guarantee system accuracy. Often interfaces to motion devices such as robots may be included to fully automate the calibration procedure.

As a vision systems developer one may ask the following questions with regards to both intrinsic and extrinsic camera calibration.

  1. How many images of the calibration target are needed?
  2. At what ranges?
  3. At what angles?
  4. How many near the center of the field of view vs at the edges?
  5. What accuracy is achievable?
  6. What accuracy was achieved?

With our framework, a user may rapidly explore these questions.

Our framework is built using Google's Ceres Solver which is a state of the art non-linear optimization tool specifically designed to solve Bundle Adjustment problems efficiently. Our framework consists of five main parts.

  1. The main script processing code which
    • Collects observations
    • Runs the optimization
    • Installs the results
  2. A library of Ceres compatible cost functions.
  3. The camera observer interface which ties your cameras to the system and automatically triggers the camera and locates common calibration targets within specified regions of interest.
  4. The scene trigger interface which provides interfaces to motion hardware such as robots. It may also serve to communicate with users to specify how to configure each scene.
  5. Transform interfaces which provide the means by which kinematic values may be fed into and out of the calibration system. Updates to these extrinsic kinematic parameters is immediate and persistent.

Using this framework, we have demonstrated three distinctly different calibrations:

  • Extrinsic calibration of a camera mounted on the tool of a robot
  • Extrinsic calibration of a network of cameras
  • Extrinsic calibration of a static camera to a robot

In addition, the ROS-I team is currently developing an intrinsic calibration script whereby a robot moves the calibration target to create a repeatable set of calibration images. In the near future, we will be developing kinematic calibration procedures for robots using cameras to better estimate robotic joint parameters.

Community Meeting Video Posted

Thanks to everyone who participated in the ROS-Industrial Community meeting that was held in conjunction with ROSCon on Saturday, September 13! A special thanks to our presenters:

  • Paul Hvass (SwRI): Welcome and Update on RIC-Americas
  • Alexander Bubeck (Fraunhofer IPA): Update from RIC-EU 
  • Clay Flannigan (SwRI): ROS-I Roadmapping update
  • Preben Hjornet (Blue Workforce): Why ROS-I Community needs to adopt the Kinect 2 
  • Risto Kojcev (Italian Institute of Technology): Introducing the Cartesian path planner plug-in for MoveIt!
  • Ryan Gneiting (Deere and Co.): John Deere ROS-I demo cell

Participants included: ABB USA, Blue Workforce, CAT, Clearpath, Fraunhofer IPA, HDT Robotics, Innervycs, Intelligrated, Italian Institute of Technology, John Deere, Leica Biosystems, Max Planch Institute, MTC, Northwestern U., NRL, Omnico AGV, Open Source Robotics Kyokai, OSRF, Reiter Affiliated Companies, Rethink Robotics, Shadow Robot, SICK, Siemens, Spirit AeroSystems, SwRI, TU Delft, UIC, UT Austin, and Wiki Technium! Your insight and energy is key to our growing community.

ROS-I Community meetings occur 3 times per year and are open to the public.

Microsoft Kinect v2 Driver Released

Reposted from ROS.org/news

From Thiemo and Alexis via ros-users@

Dear ROS Community,

I am Thiemo from the Institute for Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bremen. I am currently a PhD Student under the supervision of Prof. Michael Beetz. I'm writing this together with Alexis Maldonado, another PhD Student at our lab, who has helped mainly with the hardware aspects.

To continue reading: http://www.ros.org/news/2014/09/microsoft-kinect-v2-driver-released.html

Note that the Kinect v2 was the topic of a presentation by Preben Hjornet from Blue Workforce during the recent ROS-Industrial Community Meeting, held at ROSCon on Sept. 13th. To listen to that presentation, go to time stamp 23:14 here: http://youtu.be/7gKnzVTEbVM

Cartesian Path Planner Plug-In for MoveIt!

Dear ROS-I Community,

My name is Risto Kojcev, a joint PhD student between the BioRobotics Institute at Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and MicroBio Robotics Institute at the Italian Institute of Technology, in Pisa Italy.

This year I was participating in the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) directed by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and ROS-Industrial (ROS-I) Consortium. The title of my project was Cartesian Path Planner Plug-In for MoveIt.

In this blog post I would like to share the vision behind the GSoC project and its usefulness in the real robotic applications.

Technical Details of the Plug-In

The project aim was to develop a user friendly Cartesian Path Planner Plug-In for MoveIt!. In the current version of the project, the user can simultaneously interact with a Qt Widget and the RViz environment to define and set Cartesian Way-Points, which can then be passed to the Cartesian Planner of the MoveIt package and executed both on a simulated and real robot. [Cartesian waypoints can also be loaded externally from a yaml file.]

For the User Interaction in the RViz environment the Interactive Marker package was used. The plug-in offers two types of Interactive Markers. The first one is called Interaction Marker and is used to add the second type of Interactive Marker, the actual Cartesian Way-Points. The Cartesian Way-Points can be moved around freely in the RViz environment, and a menu that offers additional components for removing the Way from the Cartesian Plan and more detailed 6DOF control is available for each Way-Point. The color of the Way-Points lets the user know if a certain Way-Point is within the range of the Inverse Kinematics (IK) solution for the loaded robot model. In the case when the point is within the range of the IK Solution the color of the way-point is blue and yellow otherwise.

The user can also interact with the Cartesian Planner through a Qt Widget. In this widget all the Way-Points are displayed, offering additional details about each Way-Point Pose, which can be edited and adjusted by the user. Furthermore, the user can perform the same operations as in the RViz environment: adding a new Way-Point or removing it. The Way-Points can be saved to a file and the Plug-in also offers the user to load a previously saved way-points file.

The Cartesian Planner part of this Plug-in offers the user a means to adjust the parameters of the Cartesian Planner and execute a Cartesian Path set from the previously added Way-Points.

More detailed tutorials and description of the Plug-in can be found on the moveit_cartesian_plan_plugin wiki page. For the source code of the project, reporting bugs and further development suggestions, please visit the github repository.

Applications and Future Development

The design goals behind the Cartesian Plug-in was to create a simple and user friendly environment, which targets larger groups of users, from ROS beginners to more ROS experienced users. It is envisioned to find its applications in a lot of industrial applications, for example welding, painting or performing more complex actions. This Plug-in is a good starting point for future development of other applications, not just in the industrial robotics area, where Cartesian path planning is useful. For example to even further automate the creation of Way-Points an external perception system can be used which would generate Cartesian Way-Points and then the user can review the Cartesian Path, correct it and execute it, or even save it if necessary.

I would like to conclude this blog post by sharing my gratitude towards all the ROS-I community members and my mentor Shaun Edwards, who shared their suggestions during the project development. I am very happy that I had the chance to participate in this awesome program and this was a great experience for me and most of all I had lot of fun working on this project. I hope that this project would find its place in many applications and it would be useful for lot of users.

ROS-I Updates: FTP Status and ROSCon

Checkout the following ROS-Industrial news items:

  • We’ve added a new page to the ROS-Industrial website called FTP Status. It provides descriptions, media, and links related to ROS-Industrial Consortium Focused Technical Projects. Browse the list of “brewing” projects to see if any topics align with needs at your organization.
  • The agenda for ROSCon is posted. Organized by OSRF, ROSCon is the annual meeting of all ROS software developers, not just those contributing to ROS-Industrial. It takes place September 12-13 in Chicago. Take this opportunity to register. The following sessions will be of particular interest to the ROS-Industrial community:
    • ROS 2.0: Developer preview: Dirk Thomas, William Woodall, Esteve Fernandez
    • Next-generation ROS: Building on DDS: Dirk Thomas, William Woodall, Esteve Fernandez
    • ROS-Industrial calibration: Chris Lewis
  • We are planning to host a ROS-Industrial Community meeting at ROSCon on Sept. 13, 3:30 to 5 PM CST. We will present an update on the ROS-Industrial Consortia (Americas/EU) and the results of the ROS-Industrial roadmapping effort.
  • ROSCon is happening the Friday and Saturday between IMTS and IROS, so consider making your trip a double (or triple) header.

Fraunhofer IPA Press Release: Kick-off of European ROS-Industrial consortium at Fraunhofer IPA

Under the leadership of Fraunhofer IPA, the kick-off of the European ROS-Industrial consortium as well as the second international ROS-Industrial conference took place in Stuttgart, Germany, at the end of June 2014. Experts from industry and research presented ROS-Industrial key developments, applications, components and trends.

Continue reading the press release on the Fraunhofer IPA website.

ROS-Industrial Consortium-Europe Kickoff Meeting Attendees

ROS-Industrial Consortium-Europe Kickoff Meeting Attendees

More than 70 people attended the public ROS-I conference that preceded the Consortium members' meeting.

More than 70 people attended the public ROS-I conference that preceded the Consortium members' meeting.

ROS-Industrial Update

The ROS-Industrial team has been very busy developing new functionality that I am very excited to share with you.

ROS-Industrial Hydro Release!

We officially released a few ROS-Industrial packages about six months back, and released the final package just a couple of months ago. A brief description of the new features/updates can be found here. It's now possible to install from debians: sudo apt-get install ros-hydro-industrial-desktop. More detailed instructions can be found here. We typically lag ROS releases to ensure stability, but the switch to catkin really delayed us. It feels like we transitioned to catkin twice, first to get source builds working and then a second time to get debian builds working. Having put the port to catkin behind us, I'm confident we will do better next release.

Robot Vendor Package Support

Early ROS-Industrial development was focused on developing robot specific drivers. Some of these packages were developed from scratch, such as the Fanuc package, developed by TUDelft and others were acquired as orphaned projects. In order to ensure the continued development and maintenance of these drivers, we are reaching out to the community for help. Recently, Fraunhofer IPA has taken ownership of the Universal Robot. We appreciate the help of both TUDelft and IPA. We are actively looking for developers/maintainers for our other driver packages (if you are interested send an email to this developers list).

Google Summer of Code

We are participating in the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) under the OSRF umbrella. GSoC pays students to perform open source development. ROS-Industrial has two projects: a cartesian planner GUI plugin for MoveIt (repo) and an intuitive 3D interface for industrial painting (repo). We are very excited to be part of this awesome program and are looking forward to what our students come up with. Stay tuned for posts from our students.

Special Thanks to the Community

It's no secret that ROS-Industrial is a community effort. I'm very proud to say that ROS-Industrial receives contributions from some of the best academic, research, and commercial organizations from around the world. Our current stats have us at 24 contributors in the last year and that's not even counting those who participate in code reviews and submit issues. I can honestly say I've worked with some of the greatest developers in my career through the ROS-Industrial program.

ROS-I Training Class Curriculum Free for Public Use

The ROS-Industrial Basic Developers' Training Class curriculum was developed under funding from the ROS-Industrial Consortium to streamline the introduction of Ubuntu Linux, ROS, ROS-I, PCL, and MoveIt! to industrial automation C++ code developers who are new to ROS. The curriculum culminates with a vision-enabled pick-and-place project. The class was first developed for the ROS-Groovy version and held in June 2013. In May 2014, we updated and extended the course for ROS-Hydro.

With the approval of the ROS-I Consortium Advisory Committee, the curriculum has been made public (Creative Commons license) and linked to the ROS-I wiki. The class materials consist of presentation slides, step-by-step instructions, and source code for exercises. Each of the exercises is intended to take approximately 30 minutes to complete. The source code is now available on the ROS-I GitHub site. Links:

2nd ROS-Industrial EU Conference and RIC-EU Kick-Off

A post by Ulrich Reiser and Florian Weisshardt, Fraunhofer IPA

The ROS-I community is cordially invited to the following events:

ROS-Industrial Conference and Consortium Europe kick-off
at Fraunhofer IPA, Stuttgart, Germany
June 26: ROS-Industrial conference (public)
June 27: ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe Kick-Off (restricted to RIC-EU members)
Conference Objectives
The objective of the ROS-Industrial conference is to bring together representatives from academia and industry to exchange experiences on application development with ROS and clarify the needs of industry with respect to ROS-Industrial. The participants have the opportunity to obtain most recent information on current activities, already achieved results and future goals of the ROS-Industrial community.
Conference Topics:
– Developments, trends, technologies in the ROS-Industrial community
– Examples of successful transfer of ROS components established in research into industrial applications
– Current ROS-Industrial Projects (hosted by the ROS-Industrial Consortium)
Target Audience
The conference addresses in particular system integrators that aim at providing flexible, economic and manufacturer independent automation solutions, ROS-Industrial developers in research and industry, executive personal of small and medium enterprises as well as R&D divisions of larger companies in the field of automation, logistics and production.
-    Urko Esnaola, Tecnalia
-    Andrija Feher, Synapticon GmbH
-    Clay Flannigan, Southwest Research Institute
-    Joshua Hampp, Fraunhofer IPA
-    Gijs van der Hoorn, TU Delft Robotics Institute
-    Berend Küpers, ALTEN Nederland
-    Fabrizio Romanelli, Comau S.p.A. Robotics
-    Dirk Thomas, Open Source Robotics Foundation
-    Elisa Tosello, University of Padova
-    Florian Weißhardt, Fraunhofer IPA
General Chair
Martin Hägele, Fraunhofer IPA
Session Chair
Ulrich Reiser, Fraunhofer IPA
Register for ROS-Industrial conference until June 18, 2014:
Link to Consortium:
Looking forward to meeting you at both events!


SwRI Announces Collaboration with OSRF to Advance Industrial Robotics

Reposted from SwRI's news release page.

Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) announced today it has entered a cooperative agreement with Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) to strengthen collaborations in manufacturing automation, industrial robotics, machine perception and machine vision. The agreement calls for sharing research information between the two organizations to help collectively solve robot software research problems; the mutual exchange of free-of-charge software licenses; and organizing conferences, seminars and symposia to ensure continued development in open-source software for robotics.

Continue reading original post...

ROS-I Training Class Photos

Spring training classes for ROS-Industrial gave participants an opportunity to learn new skills through hands-on training. The March class, “What Can I Do with ROS-I?”, was a one-day high-level overview and experience with RViz, MoveIt!, PCL, and ROS-Industrial. The “ROS-Industrial Basic Developers’ Training Class,” held May 19-20, took developers through foundational robot manipulation and perception ROS-I/C++ coding skills leading to a collision-free pick-and-place capstone project. Included in the two classes, we had participants from ABB, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, CAT, Cessna, Cox Machine, Empire Robotics, ESCO, EWI, Ford, GA Tech, GE, IDEXX, John Deere, OmniCo AGV, OSRF, Rensselaer CATS, SER, Siemens, Tempo Automation, UTARI, UT Austin NRG, Wolf Robotics, Yaskawa Motoman. Check out pictures from the classes below.

On March 5, we had a number of demonstrations and presentations, and would like to thank:

  • Mr. Chris Pennington of Olympus Controls for the UR5 robot used in the Camera-to-Robot Calibration demo
  • Mr. Jack Thompson of UT NRG for the Multiscale Teleoperation demo
  • Dr. Jake Huckaby of GA Tech Cognitive Robotics Lab for the presentations about: 
    • A Skill Abstraction Framework in Robot Manufacturing Tasks
    • OmniMapper: A Modular Multimodal Mapping Framework
  • Mr. Patrick Dingle of Empire Robotics for the VERSABALL demo
  • Ms. Katherine Scott for her blog post about the class: Industrial Grade Awesome!
March: Showing the demonstration collision-free pick and place system during a lab breakout session.

March: Showing the demonstration collision-free pick and place system during a lab breakout session.

March: A group working on 3D perception exercises, acquiring data from a Kinect, fitting and segmenting the ground plane vs an object on the ground.

March: A group working on 3D perception exercises, acquiring data from a Kinect, fitting and segmenting the ground plane vs an object on the ground.

March: A group working on manipulation exercises.

March: A group working on manipulation exercises.

March: Jack Thompson of UT Austin showing a gesture-based teleoperation HMI.

March: Jack Thompson of UT Austin showing a gesture-based teleoperation HMI.

March: Brian Gerkey from OSRF trying out the VersaBall from Empire Robotics.

March: Brian Gerkey from OSRF trying out the VersaBall from Empire Robotics.

March: We didn't get a formal group photo in March, but here you can see most of the group enjoying dinner on the San Antonio River Walk. We ended up having two class day options in March, as we exceeded the capacity of the one-day class.

March: We didn't get a formal group photo in March, but here you can see most of the group enjoying dinner on the San Antonio River Walk. We ended up having two class day options in March, as we exceeded the capacity of the one-day class.

May: Class participants working on the capstone collision-free pick-and-place demonstration in the lab.

May: Class participants working on the capstone collision-free pick-and-place demonstration in the lab.

May: Video of the capstone project.

May: Ubiquitous Group Photo from the May 2014 Training Class

May: Ubiquitous Group Photo from the May 2014 Training Class

ROS Job Opening: UT Austin Nuclear & Applied Robotics Group

The Nuclear & Applied Robotics Group (robotics.me.utexas.edu) at the University of Texas at Austin is looking for one outstanding candidate to fill a postdoctoral position in the area of mobile manipulation. The appointment is for one year and renewable yearly by mutual agreement. The candidate must have completed their degree within the last three years and be a US citizen. The start date for the position is ideally September 1, 2014.

The successful candidate will have a PhD with an emphasis on robotics within mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science or a related field. The candidate must be prepared to complete a security background check to work in nuclear and/or government facilities.

A successful candidate will have completed a dissertation that is topical to mobile manipulation and also must have extensive experience using ROS. U.T. Austin has recently acquired a mobile manipulation system consisting of a Husky mobile platform with two UR5 manipulators. More detail is available on our web site.

The candidate will be expected to take a leadership role in developing new capabilities for the platform relevant to our sponsor as well as coordinate and mentor graduate/undergraduate research associates contributing to the project. Key areas of interest are task planning, navigation, manipulation in the presence of the uncertainty, and sensor (vision, IMU, radiation, etc.) data fusion for visualization and decision making. The candidate will also be expected to help maintain and coordinate collaboratively developed software packages. Candidates will have the opportunity to propose and pursue new and novel avenues for advancing the autonomy or manipulation capabilities for this system.

To apply, email a single file containing your CV and a one page summary of your research interests to mpryor@utexas.edu. Please keep the file below 2MB and use the subject line LANL Postdoc Application: Last name, First name. Applications received by June 15, 2014 will receive full consideration and applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled. For more information, visit robotics.me.utexas.edu.

Why Robots Don’t Kill Jobs

A guest post by Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

With U.S. job growth still anemic, some have latched on to a compelling explanation: “the robots are taking our jobs.” According to this line of thinking, high productivity driven by increasingly powerful IT-enabled machines is the cause of U.S. labor market problems, and accelerating technological change will only make the problem worse.

These arguments are not new. Over the last century whenever unemployment has risen some have always blamed machines.  But what’s different today is how widespread this “neo-Luddite” view has become and how well-received it is.  Now it’s not just the tin-foil hat crowd that is warning that robots kill jobs; many elites now make the claim.  In perhaps the most widely cited tract making this case, MIT professors Erik Byrnsolfson and Andrew McAfee state in Race against the Machine that “it may seem paradoxical that faster progress can hurt wages and jobs for millions of people, but we argue that’s what’s been happening.”  In a New York Times op-ed entitled “Sympathy for Luddites,” Paul Krugman warns that “a much darker picture of the effects of technology on labor is emerging. In this picture, highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued.”  Even 60 Minutes has jumped on the bandwagon, claiming in a program entitled “Are Robots Hurting Job Growth?” that “technology…is putting new categories of jobs in the sites [sic] of automation—the 60 percent of the workforce that makes its living gathering and analyzing information.”

Indeed, this is what is most troubling. In the past, neo-Luddite anti-progress views were episodic, emerging occasionally when joblessness spiked but then receding, and they were going against the grain of the uniquely American faith in the desirability and inevitability of progress. Today that faith is waning, which points to the real threat that anti-robotism presents: the view that machines are a problem and not the solution saps the American spirit of its relentless and aggressive support for innovation and progress.

As we show in our ITIF report, “Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?” there’s only one flaw in this Luddite, anti-machine narrative: it is completely wrong and not supported by data, scholarly evidence or logic. These neo-Luddites make a fallacious correlation between today’s high unemployment and the cool technology they see around them (e.g., smart phones, airport kiosks, IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy). They believe that when technology allows more work to be done with fewer workers, those jobs are gone and the workers are added to the unemployment rolls.

But this is what economists call the “Lump of Labor” fallacy, the idea that there is a limited amount of work to be done and if a job is eliminated, it’s gone for good. But this is a false reading of the process of technological change because it doesn’t include second order effects whereby the savings from increased productivity are recycled into the economy in the form of higher wages, higher profits, or reduced prices to create new demand that in turn creates other jobs.

Certainly U.S. history bears out the notion that productivity growth goes hand-in-hand with growth in employment.  Indeed, America’s most productive years have been followed by our years of lowest unemployment. This correlation is shown in the 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report, “Growth and Renewal in the United States: Retooling America’s Economic Engine” which looked at annual employment and productivity change from 1929 to 2009 and found that increases in productivity are correlated with increases in subsequent employment growth.

It’s also borne out by virtually all scholarly research looking at the relationship between productivity and job growth.  Some few studies find that employment decreases in the short run in response to a productivity shock, but that jobs grow in the medium to long term.  Most studies find no negative effect on employment, and some have found a positive relationship, with increases in productivity leading to more jobs. An OECD study sums it all up: “historically, the income-generating effects of new technologies have proved more powerful than the labor-displacing effects: technological progress has been accompanied not only by higher output and productivity, but also by higher overall employment.

Even many of those who acknowledge that new jobs will be created worry that this time is different and that there will not be enough of them to replace the lost ones, even in the long run. They warn that a time will come, sooner than we think, when even new “jobs” will be better done by machines, and unemployment will skyrocket. How do we know that humans will always be better at some work—or more importantly, enough work—than machines? One reason is that our economy is complex, with a broad range of industries and occupations, some amenable at a particular time to automation, most others that are not (think physical therapy, business consulting, landscape gardening). Another is that technological change doesn’t happen overnight—and current productivity increases are actually trending down. But the main reason is that human wants are close to infinite—we need look no further than the fact that most people would love to win the Powerball lottery.  With the average U.S. household income around $50,000 a year, most Americans would have no problem spending all the money they make if their incomes increased by a factor of 5 or even 10.  And as long as that is true, those wants will require labor to fill them.

It is time to consign neo-Ludditism and its particular refrain that technology costs jobs once and for all to the dustbin of history. Robots, automation, machines, productivity: these are key enablers of human progress and absolutely no threat to overall employment. As such, economic policy should at every possible opportunity not give in to neo-Luddite exhortations, but instead put the “pedal to the metal” for higher productivity and more “robots.”

2nd ROS-Industrial Community Forum

The 2nd ROS-Industrial Community Forum webinar was held on April 28, hosted by Alexander Bubeck of Fraunhofer IPA. The featured topic of the forum was the new ROS/ROS-I interface to Comau robot controllers. That topic was covered in two presentations, first by Fabrizio Romanelli of Comau, and then also by Elisa Tosello from the University of Padua, Intelligent Autonomous Systems Lab. 

Five-minute "Lightning Talks" were also given on various topics:

  • Industrial Calibration (Chris Lewis, SwRI)
  • A ROS Control overview and what it means for ROS-I (Adolfo Rodriguez Tsouroukdissian, PAL Robotics)
  • Overview of the European Robotics Challenge, (Ramez Awad, Faunhofer IPA)
  • Updates of recent developments on the BRIDE MDE toolchain, (Alexander Bubeck, Fraunhofer IPA)

ROS-Industrial Community Forums are open to the broad ROS-Industrial community and foster the dissemination of information about new ROS-Industrial capabilities and best practices. If you are interested in presenting at the next Forum, please contact us.

ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas Celebrates 20 Members!

It is our pleasure to announce that the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas is officially 20 members strong!

Logos for the 20 official members of the Consortium, April 2014

Logos for the 20 official members of the Consortium, April 2014

Our brief history: The ROS-Industrial Open Source project began as the collaborative endeavor of Yaskawa Motoman Robotics, Southwest Research Institute, and Willow Garage to support the use of ROS for industrial automation. The software repository, originally hosted on Google Code, and now on GitHub, was founded by Shaun Edwards (SwRI) in January 2012. Led by SwRI, the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas launched in March 2013. As you might have guessed from the name, there is also a ROS-I Consortium Europe, led by Fraunhofer IPA in Stutgart, Germany. The Consortium exists to support the ROS-Industrial community by providing training, technical support, and setting the roadmap for ROS-I.

The Consortium also fosters new open-source code creation to meet specific near term needs of members through Focused Technical Projects. Currently, three such projects are underway:

  • Robotic Blending, Milestone 1, championed by Spirit AeroSystems
  • CMM-Accelerated Robotic Routing, championed by Cessna Aircraft Company (Textron)
  • Minimum Cycle-Time Path Planning, championed by Idexx Laboratories

At the annual meeting last month, four new Focused Technical Projects were announced, and are available to join:

  • Heavy Helper
  • Multipass Robotic Welding
  • Robotic CNC Machining for Soft Materials (i.e., AL and CF)
  • Robotic Machine Tending

We are grateful to our members for their support and enthusiasm! If you are interested in learning more about the latest Focused Technical Projects, or about the Consortium in general, please contact us.

A Universal Pendant Could Elucidate the Interface to Industrial Robot Manipulators

A guest post by Dr. Mitch Pryor, UT Austin Nuclear and Applied Robotics Group

The ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas held its 2014 members meeting at SwRI in San Antonio, Texas on March 6th. One of the primary activities of the Consortium is to establish the technical vision and requirements for ROS-Industrial. This is done through a series of requirements gathering and analysis activities known as roadmapping. This blog provides a useful forum for sharing ideas on the proposed ROS-I roadmap and gives members a chance to succinctly present thoughts on particular topics and receive feedback from all stake holders via constructive comments. The roadmap development approach presented by Clay Flannigan (and Steve Jobs) starts with the end-user’s needs (i.e. applications). Once identified, as many were at the ROS-I spring meeting, the roadmap then pinpoints the technical gaps and puts forward an implementation plan to develop the envisioned technologies.

I want to start a discussion on what “commands” hardware must reliably execute to follow the desired trajectories and/or apply proscribed forces for a given application.  In the traditional paradigm, such commands are communicated via a teach pendant or offline programming

A teach pendant is a handheld controller that provides the primary conduit for moving the robot and recording the position locations. Traditionally, it is used to sequentially teach the EEF locations associated with a given task. This instruction method is insufficient for ROS-I to extend the advanced (i.e. advancing the autonomy or flexibility of a system) capabilities of ROS to new industrial applications. Offline programming offers more flexibility but there is no standard language or set of capabilities offered among hardware vendors. What is needed is a universal Application Program Interface (or universal API) with as much of the functionality as possible accessible via a Universal Pendant.

Traditional Dedicated Industrial Robot Teach Pendant. Source: SwRI 2011

Traditional Dedicated Industrial Robot Teach Pendant. Source: SwRI 2011

Mobile HMI: Notional Universal (i.e. interoperable) Pendant. Source link.

Mobile HMI: Notional Universal (i.e. interoperable) Pendant. Source link.

The notion of a universal pendant is not new. Toyota developed an internal unified teach pendant in 2000. Its development did more than reduce the training time for Toyota operators, it helped Toyota define the underlying capabilities that robotic vendors must provide. The Toyota unified pendant currently does not provide access to all of the capabilities envisioned by ROS-I members. If the ROS-I Consortium was to develop a similar, but more advanced device, it would help clarify and illustrate many of the API capabilities that are needed by industry.  Its development would help clarify API ambiguities and hopefully reduce the barrier to entry to much of the API functionality in an industrial setting.

What would such a teach pendant look like? What core functionality should it have? As developers, the second question is more important to answer. It certainly must provide access to the internal state of the robot (i.e. tool location, current position, current motor currents, operational status, etc.) It should be possible to modify individual joint positions as well as command joint velocities. Many advanced technologies would require access to joint torques and/or joint currents. Another useful feature would be to directly prompt a given robotic system for its mass, inertial and/or compliance parameters that are necessary in many advanced control algorithms. Remote systems should provide battery life information which is necessary to plan extended tasks. Another interesting option would be access to any internal, extensible wiring harness . One could even envision a universal messaging service for commanding hardware via existing proprietary languages. As the ROS-I Consortium develops new capabilities, such a service may become obsolete, but the universal API should not negate existing system capabilities.

Once the API is defined, it may not be possible to expose all functionality in a traditional pendant. Innovative ideas may be necessary if the full API is to be exposed. Even then certain functionality may still require writing code. The definition and scope of such an API is not trivial.  All parties (end-users, integrators, vendors, researchers, etc.) need to assist in its creation. Once developed, hardware vendors must have the right to only partially implement the proposed functionality. But our goal must be to develop an API that enables all the technologies proposed in the roadmap and make as much of the API as possible accessible to traditional (i.e. no command line!) end-users. A universal pendant would help address this and provide a mechanism for precisely illustrating and resolving ambiguities in the proposed API.

Intermodalics Uses ROS-I for Palletizing Application

Intermodalics is currently developing a depalletizing application for a client. The goal is to move an average of 2,000 crates per hour from standard pallets to a conveyor belt. Additional challenges include: more than 10 different crate types can occur in varying colors, the crates are not necessarily empty and they are randomly stacked.

The application consists of a UR10 robot from Universal Robots, a 3D camera, an Intermodalics Intelligent Controller (IIC) and an active pallet lift. The software for the application running on the IIC extensively uses ROS and the OROCOS toolchain. OROCOS is a software framework for realtime, distributed robot and machine control which is seamlessly integrated with ROS and has both Industrial and Academic users worldwide.

For finding the crates’ position and orientation, Intermodalics developed a crate localizer that builds upon the PCL library as well as on a set of in-house developed point-cloud processing algorithms. The ROS visualization tool RViz proved absolutely invaluable during the realization of this product locator.

The use of the ROS-Industrial package for the UR robot allows both the motions and the application state machine to be simulated. This significantly facilitates the implementation of the whole application.

The integration of the UR controller and the IIC does not affect the inherent safety feature of the UR robot which makes the robot stop if it encounters excessive forces. If such a stop occurs, the application can be easily restarted by a simple human operator intervention.

Blog post provided by Bert Willaert of Intermodalics.

EWI: RIC Americas Member of the Week


EWI is a leading developer in North America of innovative technology solutions that enhance manufacturing competitiveness. Since 1984, EWI has provided engineering support, R&D, strategic services, and training to leaders in the aerospace, automotive, consumer products, electronics, medical, energy and chemical, government, and heavy manufacturing industries. As a member-based organization, EWI provides applied research, manufacturing support, and strategic services to more than 1,200 member company locations worldwide.

EWI recently announced that it will open and operate an advanced manufacturing institute in Buffalo, NY. This state-of-the-art facility will support the growth of New York’s manufacturing sector. EWI President and CEO Henry Cialone said, “This is a proven model EWI has seen work in a number of the centers and consortia which it operates as hubs for the advancement of specific technologies and industries. The institute will be designed to improve public/private collaboration, strengthen Western New York manufacturing supply chains, and make its manufacturers more competitive on a global scale.”

The advanced manufacturing institute will have world-class technical capabilities in areas including: flexible automation and controls, advanced materials, additive processes, and advanced fabrication. To help enable flexible automation, EWI is looking to utilize the Robot Operating System within many industrial robotic applications. EWI is excited to be part of the ROS-Industrial Consortium and will collaborate with members and to create vital software tools for agile manufacturing.