Documentation updates improve ROS utilization and functionality

Lessons from UR driver updates reinforce importance of documentation

A key strength of the open-source community is the capacity to build on the knowledge of other developers who enable future advancements. Documentation plays a critical role in advancing understanding, which improves ROS utilization globally. This will be increasingly important as we move from ROS to ROS2 and document the various steps, including driver updates, necessary to execute projects.

Recent driver updates for a Universal Robots project helped demonstrate the importance of documentation to our team. In July 2019, Universal Robots updated their software for e-series and CB-series to 5.4 and 3.10. We were using the 5.4 software on UR 10e robots for a few different projects, and the ur_modern_driver [1] for ROS kinetic and melodic was no longer compatible due to this update. I updated the driver by investigating the release notes for 5.4.x.x [2] and the client_interface document [3].

UR10 E-series in the SwRI collaborative lab

To update the ROS driver for compatibility with software updates, I first identified what changes occurred and located appropriate software documentation for the hardware. The software documentation defined modules and variable types for the changes, which allowed for comparison with equivalent variables and modules in the current driver code. Without proper documentation from Universal Robots this would have been a much more difficult endeavor.

The ur_modern_driver specifically interacts with the client interface. Two variables were added to the 5.4 software client interface: a reserved byte in the Masterboard data sub package of Robot State Message to be used for internal UR use and a safety status value to the real time interface. The client interface document gave the types and sizes of these variables along with variables used in previous software versions.

The client interface for 5.3 and earlier had an internal UR int in Robot Mode Data I could compare to, and the safety status value could be compared to any of the other double variables in the previous driver’s RealTime interface. I used the search feature in QTCreator to find instances of these variables and added equivalent lines for the new ones. Then I used QTCreator’s debugger to track where new if statements and functions needed to be added to allow the driver to detect the new software version being used and access these new variables.

Working on this upgrade reinforced the necessity of good documentation. In general, the ur_modern_driver had more detailed documentation than many other ROS repos; however, it could still be improved. The README had no mention of the purpose of the use_lowbandwidth_trajectory_follower parameter in the launch files or the urXXe_bringup_joint_limited.launch file; both of these are useful when simulations are being overenthusiastic in their trajectory planning. I added documentation to the README to help others use these features to troubleshoot.

To update drivers, you will need to know what has been changed in the software, and you will ideally have access to a previous version of the driver. Because industrial hardware is intended to be reliable and accessible for multiple clients, there is often plenty of useful documentation if you can search with the correct terminology. Using the known changes and the documentation to compare with the previous driver code allowed me to update the driver fairly quickly so projects could move forward.




A Look Back at RIA's Autonomous Mobile Robot Conference

AMR logo.png

This is a guest post by Southwest Research Institute Intelligent Machine’s Group Lead Cody Porter, as he was on-site at the RIA AMR Conference in Louisville, KY.

The Robotics Industries Association (RIA) and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) hosted the inaugural Autonomous Mobile Robot Conference September 17th in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was a vast success with over 400 attendees ranging from end users, integrators, OEMs, researchers, and academics discussing the current AMR technologies, tips for integration, and future growth.

The opening speaker, Melonee Wise of Fetch Robotics, delivered a fantastic talk about the current technologies used in most AMR applications. The basics operations for how AMRs perceive and sense their environment, how to navigate dynamic environments, and what safety considerations are relevant to AMRs.

Matthew Rendall of OTTO Motors elegantly explained the most prevalent value proposition for AMRs. The labor force is shrinking in the United States while customer expectations for shorter lead times increase. The efficiency and effectiveness of AMRs are major benefits to most material handling applications and will see a continued acceptance in industry at large. Several other speakers, such as Denise Ebenhoech of Kuka and Norm Williams of OMRON, showed some additional applications of how AMRs have been used in other applications such as machine tending, machine feeding, lab automation, and several manufacturing applications.

Other topics of interest included the safety standards that govern the use of AMRs. A NIST report in 2013 highlighted the current gaps in published safety standards of the combination of automated ground vehicles (AGVs) and manipulators. The new standard, RIA R15.08, is in development. Michael Gerstenberger, chair of the R15.08 Drafting Subcommittee, gave a preview. A decision tree of the scope of this standard was presented as shown below.

The talks concluded with Aaron Prather, Senior Technical Advisor of FedEx, who gave an overview of the logistics industry and what lessons FedEx has learned in AMR implementation. The talk gave a great perspective of the end user wish list and current shortcomings of AMRs. The first was a technical challenge; AMRs must be able to handle outdoor environments. Sun-blinding sensors, ground conditions disrupting odometry, platforms not able to withstand weather, and the dead reckoning of wide-open spaces must be addressed to open a vast number of use cases. The second shortcoming is the lack of interoperability of multiple AMR applications. End users are looking to fit AMRs within legacy systems as well as allowing multiple AMR OEMs to provide solutions for the best use cases. All presentation materials are publicly released on the RIA website.

The accelerated adoption of AMRs into warehousing and material handling applications is fertile ground for advanced software solutions that continue to leverage ROS. The future of interoperability is one of the most obvious solutions as the map data could be seamlessly shared between all platforms if OEMs are willing to expose, as it appears industry is expecting. In addition, the path planning and manipulation capabilities demonstrated in ROS-based systems could continue to expand the use cases far beyond simple A-to-B material handling applications. The AMRs of the future will need to seamlessly switch between manufacturing processes and reallocate manipulators to where they are needed on large parts or large factories. Let’s get beyond where we are today, and even the successes that have been demonstrated, and support the innovation that is possible, while satisfying end user demand, with richer collaboration-enabling frameworks such as ROS.

Overseas Internship at ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific

Hello, my name is Willem de Graaf and I’m a former graduate intern at ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific, located in Singapore. I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. During one of my Master’s courses I got acquainted with the ROS framework which got me interested to investigate further. When I got the opportunity to go abroad for my internship, I applied to ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific and got an intern position!

I would like to elaborate on how amazing this time was by guiding you through a typical day at the ROS Industrial Asia-Pacific office.

My day starts with traveling to the office. Owning a car in Singapore is quite expensive, so the majority of people travels with public transport. After 4 months in Singapore, I still don’t know if I can blame this behaviour on the expensive cars or the high humidity (as a Dutchy I thought it would be a good idea to have a 30 minute walk to the office on my first day. They considered me crazy). It is approximately a 10-minute walk to the MRT station where a shuttle bus will take me to the office. The whole journey will take around 25 minutes, which is quite fast for the average person working in the office. I arrive at the office between 8.15 and 8.30, where my day will start with a nice cup of coffee.

Before elaborating about the daily activities, it is helpful to give a little background information about the internship assignment. The assignment involved the design of an open-source library that will evaluate a gripper configuration against an object that has to be picked up by that gripper. The goal was to build a foundation of capabilities that will enhance the pick and place pipeline for manufacturing and warehouse environments. With this assignment, I got a lot of freedom to experiment with the existing ROS-Industrial software stack and the available hardware in the office.

Collaborative robot setup at the ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific office

Collaborative robot setup at the ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific office

The team within the organization is young, diverse and highly motivated to achieve the best in collaboration with companies. As said, I got my own project where I was given the opportunity to explore and express my own ideas. The team is working on a lot of projects at the same time and because we had a daily stand-up where we had to elaborate on our progress, we kept focus and challenged each other on a daily basis. From here onwards, I ran my own project and planned my daily activities. Most of the time I was developing software, but when it was time for testing the fun part started. I was able to use UR robots, KUKA robots, multiple grippers, conveyor belts and a lot of more fun stuff. You are free to explore the possibilities with different hardware and electronics.

Pick and place flexible gripper and conveyor belt setup - ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific Workshop 2019

Pick and place flexible gripper and conveyor belt setup - ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific Workshop 2019

A typical Asian thing is to get lunch together at a food court. Because the office location was not situated around food courts, we had to take a bus every day to lunch. For a European, this is the best part of the day. The variety of food is enormous and the amount is tremendous, especially taking the price into account. Comparing to the European prices a standard lunch is quite cheap. Due to this I have to confess that my cooking skills did not improve during my time in Singapore :p.

In the last week of my internship, our office hosted a yearly conference – the ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific Workshop 2019, where the capabilities of the developed library were showcased at a demonstration setup.

Willem de Graaf (Intern) and Arunava Nag (ROS-Industrial team) at the ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific Workshop 2019

Willem de Graaf (Intern) and Arunava Nag (ROS-Industrial team) at the ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific Workshop 2019

I would like to conclude with saying that working at ROS-Industrial Asia Pacific could not have turned out better for me than it did. I learned a lot about the diverse Singaporean culture and people, I learned a lot about the Asian way of getting things done and above all, I learned a lot about ROS, which was my main goal.

If you’re seeking for an internship, please do not hesitate to contact them as they’re always open for enthusiastic and motivated students that will contribute to get open source robotics to companies!

Willem de Graaf

YAK: 3D Reconstruction in ROS2

So why YAK?

It’s difficult for robots to perceive objects in the real world, especially when those objects are shiny, previously unseen, or (gasp!) both! We are excited to introduce Yak, an open-source GPU-accelerated ROS2 package which addresses some of these challenges using Truncated Signed Distance Fields. The Southwest Research Institute booth demo from the Automate 2019 conference serves as a case study for a ROS2 system that integrates Yak into its perception and motion planning pipeline.

A bit of technical background

A Truncated Signed Distance Field (TSDF) is a 3D voxel array representing objects within a volume of space in which each voxel is labeled with the distance to the nearest surface. The TSDF algorithm can be efficiently parallelized on a general-purpose graphics processor, which allows data from RGB-D cameras to be integrated into the volume in real time.

Numerous observations of an object from different perspectives average out noise and errors due to specular highlights and interreflections, producing a smooth continuous surface. This is a key advantage over equivalent point-cloud-centric strategies, which require additional processing to distinguish between engineered features and erroneous artifacts in the scan data. The volume can be converted to a triangular mesh using the Marching Cubes algorithm and then handed off to application-specific processes.

Machined Al Test Part

Machined Al Test Part

YAK Reconstruction of Machined Al Part

YAK Reconstruction of Machined Al Part

Reconstructing in the real world

My group at Southwest Research Institute has been working with TSDFs since Spring 2017. This year we started work on our first commercial projects leveraging TSDFs in industrial applications. We developed our booth demo at the 2019 Automate conference to provide an open-source example of this type of system.

The set of libraries we use in these applications is called Yak (which stands for Yet Another KinectFusion, in reference to the substantial prior history of TSDF algorithms). Yak consists of two repositories: a ROS-agnostic set of core libraries implementing the TSDF algorithm, and a repository containing ROS packages wrapping the core libraries in a node with subscribers for image data and services to handle meshing and resetting the volume. Both ROS and ROS2 versions of this node are provided. A unique feature of Yak compared to previous TSDF libraries is that the pose of the sensor origin can be provided through the ROS tf system from an outside source such as robot forward kinematics or external tracking, which is advantageous for robotic applications since it leverages information that is generally already known to the system.

The test system, which is in the pipeline for open-source release as a practical demonstration, uses a Realsense D435 RGB-D camera mounted on a Kuka iiwa7 to collect 3D images of a shiny metal tube bent into a previously-unseen configuration. The scans are integrated into a TSDF volume as the robot moves the camera around the tube.

The resulting mesh is processed by a ROS node using surface analysis functions from VTK to extract waypoints and tangential vectors along the length of the tube. These waypoints constitute the seed trajectory for a motion plan generated by our Descartes and Tesseract libraries which sweeps a ring along the tube while avoiding collision. Camera and turntable extrinsic calibration was performed using a nonlinear optimization function from the robot_cal_tools package.

A picture of the reconstructed mesh used to generate a robot trajectory is below. Additional information about the development of this demo (plus some neat video!) is available here. As ROS2 training is integrated into the ROS-I Consortium Americas curriculum, we look forward to sharing more lessons learned about applying Yak towards similar applications.

Screenshot from 2019-03-19 20-10-22.png

What next?

Yak is open-source as of July 2019. While development is ongoing and we anticipate that the library APIs will continue to evolve, we encourage interested parties to check it out at and .

New Release - ROS Qt Creator 4.9.1 with ROS2 Support!

We are pleased to announce the release of the ROS Qt Creator Plug-in for Qt Creator 4.9 on Xenial and Bionic. The ROS Qt Creator Plug-in creates a centralized location for ROS tools to increase efficiency and simplify tasks.

Perf Flame Graph  (Tutorial)

Perf Flame Graph (Tutorial)


  • Qt Creator 4.9 introduces several new features and improvements to existing capabilities.
    • Generic Programming Language Support (Python Support!)
      • This was experimental in 4.8 but is now fully supported.
    • Perf Profiling
      • This a powerful tool for profiling software running on linux.
ROS settings - Add custom ROS install location

ROS settings - Add custom ROS install location

Value of Meetups to Foster Awareness and Collaboration

Recently here in the ROS-I Americas backyard we have begun organizing an open robotics meetup called SATX Robotix. The intent is to drive more face-to-face interaction around open-source software and/or robotics and broaden the types of people who may engage in supporting open-source development.

Xenex provides an overview of advancements in medical robotics

Xenex provides an overview of advancements in medical robotics

As open-source has gained momentum, particularly in industrial circles, there is the opportunity to deploy lessons learned more broadly to further accelerate the means for how we effectively communicate and incentivize participation in an open-source community. This can help enhance the skills needed to build technical capability and effectively disseminate information, gather feedback and grow a diverse community that moves the needle of democratizing capability and enabling participation that enriches not just the target open-source projects but the communities that are involved.

The SATX Robotix initiative is still in its early phases, but it has shown the promise of bringing developers, end-users, students, interested hobbyists, and other elements of the business and marketing community to both drive idea sharing and enable richer collaboration and skill sharing than we would get just working on an issue board on GitHub.

Jorge Nicho of SwRI sets up and tests a MoveIt! demonstration ahead of the SATX Robotix Meetup in San Antonio

Jorge Nicho of SwRI sets up and tests a MoveIt! demonstration ahead of the SATX Robotix Meetup in San Antonio

If you are considering levering open-source tools in your advanced robotics or manufacturing/industrial application, I would encourage you to see what is going on in your local tech community. If possible, see where you can engage in a meetup. If nothing else, you may find others who have dealt with similar challenges or find those who can help you formulate your “so what” as to why you would seek to leverage open-source software to solve your problem within your group/company.

Don’t overlook opportunities to work face-to-face with a broader set of individuals. The engagement and benefit of community is what sets the open-source development model apart from, particularly, industrial/proprietary solution development approaches.

Highlights from ICRA relevant to ROS & ROS-Industrial


The International Conference on Robotics and Automation, commonly known as ICRA, is one of the premier global events for showcasing the latest and greatest results in robotics research. This year ICRA was held in Montreal, Canada, back in North America for the first time since Seattle in 2015.

ICRA is largely a forum for academic research labs to showcase their most recent results, which aim to be exploratory and forward-looking rather than off-the-shelf solutions ready for immediate adoption into industry. Nevertheless, there was still quite a bit of noteworthy technology and results on display. It was very impressive to see the huge variety of areas that researchers are exploring within robotics and the large amount of creativity on display in new approaches and algorithms.

The scale of ICRA was enormous this year, with over 1,200 papers presented over the course of the three-day conference. Along with the plenary sessions, keynote talks, and industry exhibitions, there was far too much to see and do. With such a high volume of content, a classic conference format of multiple tracks where each author presents to a sitting audience was simply not possible. Instead, the organizers opted for an interesting alternative of interactive presentations where the authors stood by a poster describing their work and conference attendees were free to spend as much time as they wanted discussing the work with the author. The new twist that I hadn’t seen before was that all presentations took place in the same large exhibition hall simultaneously, in sessions that each contained about 130-150 posters. The posters were spread throughout the hall on the outside of free-standing structures that had partitioned spaces for each poster, which were called the PODS. The PODS all being colocated in a single room created a very casual atmosphere with a lot of exploration and discussion with the paper authors.


Photo courtesy of Rishi Malhan, University of Southern California

To conclude, I wanted to highlight a few contributions that are interesting for the use of ROS or for connections to ROS-Industrial. Definitely keep an eye out for these papers to appear on IEEE Xplore soon and take a look!

Reinforcement Learning on Variable Impedance Controller for High-Precision Robotic Assembly

Jianlan Luo, Eugen Solowjow, Chengtao Wen, Juan Aparicio Ojea, Alice Agogino, Aviv Tamar, Pieter Abbeel

Here the authors address the problem of autonomous and intelligent robotic assembly, and had presented this work at the most recent ROS-Industrial annual meeting. They use a Rethink Robotics Sawyer robot (which is controlled through ROS) to perform precision assembly of a set of gears using reinforcement learning and neural networks. The core idea is that successful completion of assembly tasks requires knowledge about the types of contacts and constraints involved, such as aligning a peg with the axis of a hole before it can be inserted. Rather than having the system designer spend time and effort providing manual descriptions of these constraints, their method allows them to be learned directly from the robot’s experience. As can be seen in the video below, the robot is able to quickly learn how to deal with a number of different contacts when performing multiple different assembly tasks. This is a great demonstration of bringing machine learning into robot behaviors for industrial tasks and it will be fascinating to see how this area develops in the near future.

Assembly Video

CartesI/O: A ROS Based Real-Time Capable Cartesian Control Framework

Arturo Laurenzi, Enrico Mingo, Luca Muratore, Nikos Tsagarakis

In work that follows their participation in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the authors introduce a framework for performing real-time Cartesian control of platforms with many degrees-of-freedom within a ROS system. The framework is designed to support having the controller solver run inside the real-time control loop so that the robot can react immediately to any change in the desired input. Each Cartesian controller is specific to a particular platform and particular task, but the authors provide interface layers to abstract away much of common logic that would have to be repeatedly implemented in different implementations. By supporting the ROS URDF format, constraints or desired behaviors can be specified for links. Furthermore, each task will have an auto-generated ROS API available that enables very high level input about the task goals and provides information about the current task status. This allows a user to perform basic scripting of robot behaviors using something a simple as a short Python script, for example. This framework can be seen driving the 28 DoF COMAN+ humanoid and the 39 DoF CENTAURO quadruped robots in the video below.

CartesI/O Video

MoveIt! Task Constructor for Task-Level Motion Planning

Michael Görner, Robert Haschke, Helge Joachim Ritter, Jianwei Zhang

Here the authors provide a software tool and framework for extending MoveIt to more naturally handle planning of entire robot tasks. For nontrivial tasks, the overall robot motion is typically broken into multiple distinct pieces, each of which has its own set of planning challenges. For example, when performing a pick-and-place task, the robot has to separately create plans for approaching the object, grasping it, moving the object to the place area, and releasing it at the place point. The authors formalize a framework for each of these stages and how each one may depend on others. For example, the grasp selection will affect where the manipulator should move to at both the pick and place positions. The framework is arbitrarily scalable and allows system designers to create descriptions of entire tasks that MoveIt can solve with relative ease. The authors have open-sourced the software on GitHub ( and are hopeful the framework will go on to become a central tool for task planning using MoveIt.


Planning a pouring task with displays for how the robot picks up the bottle (center), creates the pouring motion (left), and places it back on the table (right)

Field notes from Automate 2019, and why we’re bullish on ROS2

What makes a good industrial automation demonstration? When we started preparing for Automate 2019 back in January, a few key points came to mind. Our specialty in SwRI’s Manufacturing and Robotics Technology Department is advanced robotic perception and planning, so we decided that the robot should perform an authentic dynamic scan-and-plan process on a previously-unseen scene – as far away as we could get from a “canned” demo. We also wanted the demo to be an interactive experience to help drive discussion with visitors and entertain onlookers. These goals led us to the tube threading concept: a human would bend a piece of shiny metal tubing into a novel shape, and the robot would perceive it and plan a path to sweep a ring along it.

Michael Ripperger & Joseph Schornak on location at Automate 2019

Michael Ripperger & Joseph Schornak on location at Automate 2019

Developing a demo system presents an opportunity to explore new ideas in a low-risk environment because the schedule and deliverables are primarily internally-motivated. Since my group had limited previous exposure to ROS2, we decided that our Automate demo should use ROS2 to the greatest possible extent. The original vision was that the system would be entirely composed of ROS2 nodes. However, due to the practical requirements of getting everything working before the ship date, we decided to use a joint ROS/ROS2 environment, with ROS motion planning and the GUI nodes communicating with the ROS2 perception nodes across the ROS-to-ROS2 bridge

ROS2 Strengths and Challenges

In contrast to virtually every other robotics project I’ve worked on, the demo system’s perception pipeline worked consistently and reliably. Intel maintains a ROS2 driver for Realsense RGB-D cameras, which allowed us to use the D435 camera without any customization or extra development. Our YAK surface reconstruction library based on the Truncated Signed Distance Field algorithm helped us avoid the interreflection issues that would usually plague perception of shiny surfaces. After a couple afternoons spent learning how to use new-to-me VTK libraries, the mesh-to-waypoint postprocessor could consistently convert tube scans into trajectory waypoints. More information about this software is available from the SwRI press release or the writeup in Manufacturing Automation.

Block Diagram of SwRI ROS-I Automate 2019 Demonstration

Block Diagram of SwRI ROS-I Automate 2019 Demonstration

Motion planning turned out to be a particularly challenging problem. Compared to a traditional robot motion task like pick-and-place, which involves planning unconstrained paths through open space, the kinematic constraints of the tube threading problem are rather bizarre. While the ring tool is axially underconstrained and can be rotated freely to the most convenient orientation, it is critical that it remain aligned with the axis of the tube to avoid collision. It’s impossible to flip the ring once it’s over the tube, so if the chosen ring orientation causes the robot to encounter a joint limit halfway down the tube, tough luck! Additionally, the robot must avoid collision between the tube and robot hardware during motion. Our initial solution used Trajopt by itself, but it would sometimes introduce unallowable joint flips since it tried to optimize every path waypoint at once without a globally-optimal perspective on how best to transition between those waypoints. We added the Descartes sampling algorithm, which addressed these issues by populating Trajopt’s seed trajectory with an approximate globally-optimal path that satisfied these kinematic and collision constraints. Planning still failed occasionally: even with a kinematically-redundant Kuka iiwa7 arm, solving paths for certain tube configurations simply wasn’t feasible[^1].

TrajOpt Path Planning Implementation & Testing

TrajOpt Path Planning Implementation & Testing

[^1]: The extent of solvable tube configurations could be greatly increased by including the turntable as a controllable motion axis. Given the constraints of the iiwa7’s ROS driver, we decided that this would be, in technical software terms, a whole other can of worms.

We shipped the robot hardware about a week in advance of the exhibit setup deadline. Our reliance on ROS meant we could switch to simulation with minimal hassle, but there were some lingering issues with the controller-side software that had to wait until we were reunited with the robot the Saturday before the show[^2]. This contributed to moderate anxiety on Sunday evening as we worked to debug the system using real-world data. We had to cut some fun peripherals due to time constraints, such as the handheld ring wand that would let visitors race the robot. By Tuesday morning the robot was running consistently, provided we didn’t ask it to solve paths for too-complicated tubes. This freed up some time for me to walk the halls away from our booth and talk to other exhibitors and visitors.

[^2]: Our lunch upon arrival was Chicago-style deep dish pizza, which conveniently doubled as dinner that evening.

More Collaborative Robots

There were collaborative robots of all shapes and sizes on display from many manufacturers. I may have seen nearly the same number of collaborative robots as traditional ones! A handful were programmed to interact with visitors, offering lanyards and other branded largesse to passersby. Most of them were doing “normal robot things,” albeit intermingled with crowds of visitors without any cages of barriers, and generally at a much more sedate pace compared to the traditional robots. Some of the non-collaborative robots were demonstrating safety sensors that let them slow down and stop as visitors approached them -- I usually discovered these by triggering them accidentally.

I was surprised by the number of autonomous forklifts and pallet transporters. I’m told that there were more in 2019 than at previous shows, so I’m curious about what recent developments drove growth in this space.

I learned that ROS-Industrial has significant brand recognition. I got pulled into several conversations solely because I was wearing a ROS-I polo! Many of these discussions turned to ROS2, which produced some interesting insights. Your average roboticist-on-the-street is aware of ROS2 (no doubt having read about it on this very blog), but their understanding of its capabilities and current condition might be rather fuzzy. Many weren’t sure how to describe the key differences between ROS and ROS2, and a few weren’t even aware that ROS2 has been out in the wild for three versions! I’ll unscientifically hypothesize that a key challenge blocking wider ROS2 adoption is the lack of demonstrated success on high-visibility projects. Our demo drove some good conversation to alleviate these concerns: I could show a publicly-visible robotic system heavily reliant on ROS2 and point to the open-source native ROS2 device drivers that let it function.

Showcasing Perception and Planning Potential

In terms of demo reception, people who visited our booth were impressed that we were scanning and running trajectories on previously-unseen parts. I usually had to provide additional context to show how our perception and planning pipeline could be extended to other kinds of industrial applications. There’s a tricky balance at play here – an overly abstract demo requires some imagination on the part of the viewer to connect it to an industrial use case, but a highly application-specific demo isn’t easily generalized beyond the task at hand. Since our group specializes in application-generic robot perception and planning, I think that a demo tending towards the abstract better showcases our areas of proficiency. This is a drastically different focus from other exhibits at the show, which generally advertised a specific automation process or turnkey product. I feel like we successfully reached our target audience of people with difficult automation tasks not addressed by off-the-shelf solutions.

Development of the Industrial YAK reconstruction for the Automate Demo in ROS2

Development of the Industrial YAK reconstruction for the Automate Demo in ROS2

While it certainly would have been easier to adapt an already-polished system to serve as a show demo, developing a completely new one from scratch was way more fun. Improvements made to our perception and planning software were pushed back upstream and rolled into other ongoing projects. We’re now much more comfortable with ROS2, to the extent that we’ve decided that from here on out new robotics projects will be developed using ROS2. The show was a lot of fun, a great time was had by all, and I hope to see you at Automate 2021!

ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe is heading towards ROS2

With the growing excitement and curiosity surrounding ROS2, ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe (RIC-EU) had the pleasure to host the Spring 2019 edition of the RIC-EU Tech Workshop. It took place on May 6th and 7th at Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, Germany. Some of the main drivers of DDS and ROS2 developments personally presented their insights and gave hands-on sessions during the event. For this, participants were provided with USB sticks with Ubuntu Bionic and ROS Melodic and ROS Crystal pre-installed (just as for all our ROS-Industrial trainings). The event has been free for worldwide members of any ROS-Industrial Consortium and was fully booked out with 40 people attending from all over Europe.

On Day 1, the workshop started with RIC-EU manager Thilo Zimmermann who welcomed the participants at Fraunhofer IPA and introduced the ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe and its EU project funding opportunity (next cut-off dates June 14 and September 13, 2019).

As ROS 2 supports multiple DDS/RTPS implementations, RIC-EU proudly hosted one of the most popular DDS vendors, eProsima, to explain the main concepts of DDS and present their stack at the workshop. During the five hours of presentations and hands-on workshops, Borja Outerelo Gamarra and Jaime Martin Losa covered topics like DDS Introduction, presentation of the standard and motivation of DDS & DDS Architecture, and DDS QoS. Attendees practised on a “hello world” example. ePROSIMA's slides can be found here.


On Day 2, Ralph Lange from RIC-EU member BOSCH gave an in-depth presentation of the current status of ROS2. He included hands-on tasks using ROS2 and sow new features and also provided information on the upcoming d-turtle “Dashing Diademata” release on May 31, 2019. Ralph's presentation slides "Current Status of ROS2 - Hands-on Feature Overview" can be found here.


The second presentation by Ingo Lütkebohle, also from BOSCH Corporate Research, introduced the micro-ROS activity. Ingo is one of the investigators of the EU funded OFERA project, which ports ROS2 to “extremely resource constrained devices” (usually, microcontrollers) with the new DDS XRCE standard. He demonstrated this by using a Cortex M4 board mounted on a first generation Turtlebot. Ingo's presentation slides can be found here.


After a lunch break, Ludovic Delval of Fraunhofer IPA gave a hands-on workshop on how to migrate ROS1 node to ROS2. Lastly, Harsh Deshpande, also from Fraunhofer IPA, previewed the porting of the ur_modern_driver to ROS2 and presented a proposal for the action_bridge, which currently bridges between ROS1 action client and ROS2 action server.

At the end of the workshop, participants and ROS-Industrial Consortium members agreed that 2019 is promising a lot of developments in ROS2. In April at ROS-I Consortium Americas 2019 Annual Meeting, RIC members interacted and exhibited an interesting panel session titled “Is ROS2 Ready for the Factory Floor”. In June, Ludovic Delval of Fraunhofer IPA will present the latest updates at ROSCon France in Paris and Harsh Deshpande at the ROS-Industrial AP Workshop 2019 in Singapore.

The next RIC-EU Tech Workshop is foreseen for Fall 2019 (tentative dates October 09-10). The 2019 edition of the ROS-Industrial Conference is planned on December 10-12, 2019 (save the date!).

What Took Place at the ROS-I Consortium Americas 2019 Annual Meeting

After the Automate 2019 Exhibition and Conference the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas held their 2019 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, on April 12. This is the primary face-to-face opportunity for the Americas membership, whom have expressed interest in leveraging ROS and additional open-source solutions, in industrial and manufacturing applications. This event has proven to be a great opportunity to engage with end-users, OEMs, solution providers and researchers on open source, interoperable, agile software capabilities.

As has been the custom when held in Chicago following Automate, the meeting was confined to a single day. This led to a packed agenda with attendance at a record for the co-located variant of the Americas Annual Meeting. As was stated in this year’s program, “As evidenced by the activity and the sheer number of entrants into the order fulfillment/warehouse and logistics space, this area has proven that ROS-based solutions can survive and even thrive in manufacturing environments where uptime and reliability of performance are critical.” The day that followed demonstrated that there is both interesting and tangible activity as well as plenty of opportunity to continue to innovate while leveraging open source to step-change how innovation in industrial automation takes place.

The day kicked off with strategic and technical updates from each ROS-Industrial region. The Americas Consortium reviewed their “roadmapping” effort with an emphasis on managing the transition from ROS to ROS2. Levi Armstrong shared technical developments, including a summary of Industrial YAK, a TSDF-based reconstruction package, and an approach to enable the ability for ROS-I to support ROS and ROS2 applications moving forward.

Full House for 2019 ROS-I Americas Annual Meeting

Full House for 2019 ROS-I Americas Annual Meeting

The EU Consortium was able to highlight evolutions for the progress of open source and ROS in industry. This followed with a ROSin program update for the Americas audience. Asia-Pacific discussed some of his team’s work around Dynamic Grasping and a Singapore-funded initiative “ROS-based National Healthcare Project” that will be open-source, expanding application of ROS in an IoT use case.

A follow-up roadmapping workshop was held, seeking to collect feedback on technical needs and gaps, programmatic gaps, what is working, and what application areas are the greatest needs. The intent is to gather feedback to continue to ensure a solid roadmap, both for the transition and/or incorporation of ROS2 and other open-source capabilities, and ensuring that FTP topics are aligned with the demands of the membership and Industrial community.

This followed with an overview by Dr. John Wen of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Robotic Assembly of Large Structures using Vision and Force Guidance. This work was a product of the ARM Institute’s Quick Start Technology Projects. The work shows the ability to realize millimeter assembly performance leveraging tools such as ABB’s External Guided Motion Interface along with visual servoing techniques.

Dr. Eugen Solowjow presented compelling work that sought to leverage Artificial Intelligence techniques to enable robot learning for path planning to perform assembly and placement tasks. This highlighted a gap in the ROS ecosystem relative to advanced AI frameworks and the inability of ROS to interoperate with these tools at this time.

We were then able to welcome keynote speaker Chris Morgan, chief innovation officer of Bastian Solutions, a Toyota Advanced Logistics company. He talked about how ROS enables a one-stop shop, if you will, to enable his team to innovate rapidly to come up with the next generation of warehouse automation technologies, including mobile robotics.

Ahead of the presentation portion for the afternoon, members presented and discussed Focused Technical Project (FTP) topics. This was followed by, Fred Proctor, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Group Leader of the Networked Control Systems Group sharing with the membership developments of techniques to assess robotic system performance relative to agility, and how there is a need to enable common language as robotics capabilities advance.

Vincent Tam of Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT team presented updates relative to Microsoft’s Kinect and the tools to enable rich application development within the Windows and Auzure ecosystems.

A panel session titled “Is ROS2 Ready for the Factory Floor?” featured Chris Lalancette of Open Robotics, Dave Coleman of PickNik and MoveIt!, Matthew Hansen of Intel, and Jerry Towler of Southwest Research Institute’s Unmanned Ground Systems Group. They discussed ROS2 experiences and some of the challenges related to its broader adoption. The discussion, moderated by SwRI and ROS-I Americas tech lead Levi Armstrong, covered university uptake of ROS2 versus ROS, why industry is pulling for ROS2 and techniques for managing this transition period, as well as guidance or tips for leveraging ROS2 when starting from scratch or if you have an existing ROS code base. The audience exhibited passion while engaging in a lively conversation that added additional context to publications or word of mouth that have framed the state of ROS2 at this point.

ROS2 Panel on Readiness for the Factory Floor

ROS2 Panel on Readiness for the Factory Floor

The afternoon session concluded with an introduction by Tormach CEO Daniel Rogge on their work seeking to create a ROS package for the MachineKit component HAL, the Hardware Abstraction Layer, and described what this enables. This was followed by an OEM partnership highlight that served as an example of how Yaskawa enables advanced applications by supporting up-and-coming companies with compelling new ideas; in this case, Path Robotics spoke to the membership about their vision to change how robotic arc welding is deployed for small and medium manufacturers.

The day concluded with a presentation by Dr. Mitch Pryor and the work his team at the University of Texas at Austin Nuclear Robotics Group is doing to reduce operator burden and enabling richer leverage of advanced robotics that in certain cases lead to improved worker satisfaction and overall performance improvements compared to legacy tele operation applications.

It was a full day, after a full week, but we were thankful to the attendees, and all the members who came in person and engaged via the online streaming of the event. For members, all the presentations and the recordings of the presentations and panel will be made available via the member portal. Moving forward, the ROS-Industrial Consortia globally will seek to bring back the ROS-Industrial Community meeting, a quarterly update that was a more meaningful means to maintain engagement throughout the year across the regional Consortia. The hope here is to optimize programs such as ROSin, and to provide two-way communication channels for these projects/funding sources beyond their core audience, and to enable a checkpoint to ensure that strategically ROS-Industrial as a project is synchronized and each dollar that is put towards ROS-Industrial is most effectively utilized.

Global ROS-I Team from Left to Right - Levi Armstrong (SwRI), Erik Unemyr (ROS-I AP), Chris Bang (SwRI), Thilo Zimmerman (Fraunhofer IPA), Paul Evans (SwRI), Mirko Bordignon (Fraunhofer IPA), and Matt Robinson (SwRI)

Global ROS-I Team from Left to Right - Levi Armstrong (SwRI), Erik Unemyr (ROS-I AP), Chris Bang (SwRI), Thilo Zimmerman (Fraunhofer IPA), Paul Evans (SwRI), Mirko Bordignon (Fraunhofer IPA), and Matt Robinson (SwRI)

We look forward to continued action that stems from this event, and all the events we have in the coming months. ROS-Industrial Asia-Pacific will have its annual workshop June 18-20 in Singapore, and World ROS-I Day, our annual “house cleaning” on the code itself, is tentatively schedule for the last week in June.

Thanks to all those that engaged with the ROS-Industrial Global team the entire week, including the Annual Meeting. Without your support, open-source for industry would just be a tag line, but as evidenced by the progress to date, it is a reality.

SwRI Presents at America Makes TRX

Southwest Research Institute had the pleasure of hosting the America Makes TRX conference here in San Antonio Texas for two days in March to discuss the latest up and comings of additive manufacturing and its technologies. ROS Industrial made a cameo in the lineup on Thursday the 21st where I gave my presentation, Open Source Developments Impacting the Industrial Automation Space & Their Relevance to Additive Processing. The talk focused on the synergies between additive manufacturing and ROS.

I present on the synergies between ROS and additive Manufacturing

I present on the synergies between ROS and additive Manufacturing

Boasting over 100 attendees, TRX was the first America Makes held at the Institute and – for many – their first introduction to ROS and the robotic capabilities available to the additive manufacturing community. Additive manufacturing focuses primarily on the metallurgical problems associated with lamentation and homogenous particulate bonding with significant research focus on the optimization of material properties and subsequent process ills such as wavy depositions or stress localizations and predictions from discrete inspections. The introduction or ROS capabilities surrounding laser inspections and blending were of strong interest to several groups and attendees.

Follow up tours were held of the Southwest Research Institute labs that are leveraged for ROS-Industrial application development. Here follow up conversations, and tangible examples relative to the additive process through the complete value stream were discussed. This included more effective ways to do post-processing, alternate applications of on the fly material deposition, and material removal, as well as the ability to resolve build errors that could occur during large format printing operations.

Ben Greenberg gives a demo of SwRI’s Visual Programming IR&D.

Ben Greenberg gives a demo of SwRI’s Visual Programming IR&D.

Special thanks to Carl Popelar and Division 18 for his efforts in organizing the America Makes Technology Exchange and all supporting SwRI staff.

First ROS-I Consortium Americas Training on Melodic

During the first week in March a ROS-I training event was held at the Southwest Research Institute campus in San Antonio, Texas. As per recent tradition, both a Basic and an Advanced track were offered. However, the Advanced track did not have any registrants, so only the Basic was held. This however, was still a milestone of note as it was the first training class in ROS Melodic.

Students working through Exercise 3.0 - Intro to URDF

Students working through Exercise 3.0 - Intro to URDF

Students were guided through a number of exercises, such as; “how to create a simple urdf” and “transforms using TF”. A significant amount of work went into getting the materials for the training, including all the exercises to work properly in Melodic. Day 2 focused on motion planning introduction and exercises that introduced the cartesian planner Descartes, and a high-level introduction into Perception. The final day of the training was a lab day, where various exercises were completed, and students could test their application on the available hardware. Feedack to date was that the training functioned well, and issues were limited.

trjopt training.JPG

In addition to the training being on ROS Melodic, a new training module was created, and though it was part of the "Advanced" topic, that was not held, I wanted to take a moment to introduce and drive awareness for a new functional demonstration.

This demonstration titled “Optimization Based Path Planning”, seeks to provide users with a full working example that enables those interested in optimization of motion plans, to leverage the tools within the newly released package TrajOpt. The exercise steps through several steps leveraging template code, understand the procedure for building a problem and adding costs, solving for a trajectory, and then move to a real sensor and an actual robot leading to successful demonstration execution on hardware.

This exercise, with full demonstration environment, is open source and included over at the ROS-Industrial training website. We look forward to conducting this Advanced topic in future ROS-I Consortium Training offerings and hope in the interim that this demonstration becomes a useful tool to those interested in exploring optimization based path planning.

Please keep an eye for additional improvements to the training materials and demonstrations, including new exercises and demonstrations around topics such as a ROS-I introduction to ROS2, where relevant considerations will be included to enable interaction with path planners, and realizing robot motion.

As always if you have questions about ROS-I Consortium training and are curious about upcoming events, nad their locations, please do not hesitate to contact us, or start a conversation over at

Announcing MoveIt 1.0


MoveIt has been in beta since 2013 (6 years), but today we’re excited to announce MoveIt is all grown up. We are releasing MoveIt 1.0 for ROS Melodic.

What does this mean for you? The MoveIt maintainer team is moving towards clearer release schedules with better understood API breakage rational. Notably, we are now doing all our development in a master branch rather than the melodic-devel branch, etc. This will allow us to add exciting new features, even if it means we have to break API in certain areas and refactor the code to support new motion planning paradigms. See my Open Letter To MoveIt Community for more reasoning.

It also allows us to break ground on MoveIt 2.0, which will provide support for the exciting ROS 2.0 framework. The port of MoveIt to ROS 2 has already begun, as described in this recent blog post. For a full roadmap of MoveIt versioning, see the MoveIt 1.0 release plan.

What’s New In MoveIt 1.0?

There have been lots of new features being added to MoveIt the past year that we’re really excited about. Beyond features, a ton of code cleanup has occurred (clang-tidy, catkin lint) and we have a lot more code coverage. For more info, see Migration Notes.

Highlights of changes:

Thanks to all our contributors!

MoveIt is a vibrant open source community with a rapidly improving codebase. Our maintainer team is awesome, particularly Robert Haschke and Michael Görner, both hailing from Germany.

We’ve had 158 contributors to date that have made MoveIt 1.0 possible. We’ve come a long way from the early days of MoveIt at Willow Garage. MoveIt is now a huge international effort with contributors from research labs and companies around the world. See our 2017 montage for some of the impressive applications using MoveIt.

Under PickNik Consulting’s guidance, we’re encouraging more people to get involved – including you! Our third year of World MoveIt Day had approximately 310 participants from 13 locations around the globe. Together with Open Robotics, PickNik sponsored three Google Summer of Code students to work on MoveIt last summer. We’ve also put in a ton of effort making MoveIt easier to use, from the MoveIt Setup Assistant 2.0 to new tutorials using the Franka Emika Panda robot.

We hope MoveIt 1.0 continues to support the worldwide open source robotics effort and the ideals of ROS.

ROS Industrial Conference #RICEU2018 (Session 4)

From public funding opportunities to the latest technologies in software and system integration, the combination of robotics and IT to hardware and application highlights: ROS-Industrial Conference 2018 offered a varied and top-class programme to more than 150 attendees. For the sixth time already, Fraunhofer IPA organized a ROS event in Stuttgart to present the status of ROS in Europe and to discuss existing challenges.

This is the fourth instalment of a series of four consecutive blog posts, presenting content and discussions according to the sessions:

  1. EU ROS Updates (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  2. Software and system integration (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  3. Robotics meets IT (watch all but 1 talks in this YouTube playlist)
  4. Hardware and application highlights (watch all but 1 talks in this YouTube playlist)

Day 3 - Session “Hardware and Application Highlights“

Georg Heppner (FZI) and Fabian Fürst (Opel) At ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Georg Heppner (FZI) and Fabian Fürst (Opel) At ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

In the fourth and final session of the ROS-Industrial Conference 2018, the focus was on hardware developments and applications implemented in industrial use cases. Fabian Fuerst, Opel, and Georg Heppner, FZI, delivered the session keynote. They presented their solution for flexible automotive assembly with industrial robotic co-workers. The application was developed as part of the EU EuRoC project. In this four-year competition, more than 100 participants initially worked on new robotic solutions for the manufacturing industry. In the course of several evaluation rounds, the team from FZI, Opel and MRK Systeme GmbH was able to assert itself successfully to the end.

During the course of the project, the FZI developed an automated robotic assembly for flexible polymer door sealings on car doors. The sealing is a closed ring, which has to be fixed with up to 40 plastic pins depending on the model, an ergonomically unfavourable task that could not be automated until now. The developed assembly cell is very flexible and open, so that the robot can be used without a safety fence. For this purpose, an external force control was developed that can be used easily and directly also for numerous other robots as a package of ROS-Industrial. The CAD-2-PATH software is used for the simple path creation for the robot. This enables a quick adjustment to other door models and does not require any expert knowledge. This is important because there are different door models and sealing types and the automation solution must be adaptable accordingly and quickly. It is notable that the application received positive assessment from Opel with regards to safety, typically a sensitive topic when applying novel tools such as ROS in automotive applications.

Paul Evans (Southwest Research Institute / ROS-Industrial North America) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Paul Evans (Southwest Research Institute / ROS-Industrial North America) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The presentation by Paul Evans, Southwest Research Institute and ROS-Industrial Consortium North Americas, provided current information on the activities of the North America Consortium such as strategic initiatives, trainings, and networking activities. These also focus on voices of members and include activities for the strategy alignment, for more robustness and flexibility and agility. There are also collaborations with OEMs who support ROS or develop their own drivers. At the ROS-I Consortium Americas Annual Meeting 2018, different applications were presented, for example an order batch picking robot from Bastian Solutions and a robotic system for agile aerospace applications like sanding, blending, drilling etc. for the U.S. Air Force. A last highlight that Evans presented was the ROS-I collaboration with BMW and Microsoft. While RIC-North Americas supported the evaluation of simulation environments that included physics engines the RIC-EU partners provided additional navigation support and training for mobile robots at the BMW plant to support assembly logistics. The solution is deployed on Microsoft Azure.

Mobile robots was also the topic of the lecture by Karsten Bohlmann, E&K Automation. He presented solutions for ROS on AGVs and perception-driven load handling and PLC interfaces.

Arun Damodaran (Denso) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Arun Damodaran (Denso) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Denso Robotics Europe was present at the conference with Arun Damodaran, who talked about Cobotta, the ROS-enabled collaborative robot. This is a six-axis arm with a reach of 342 mm, a repeatability of 0,05 mm and a payload of 500 g. It has an inherently safe design, meets all requirements for safety-standards corresponding to the ISO norms and is compliant thanks to safety-rated monitored function. Another advantage is its easy set-up and use. This is realized by the usage of the robot programming software drag&bot. Developed by the spin-off of the same name of Fraunhofer IPA, the software enables the programming of robots like Cobotta with the drag and drop principle. No expert knowledge is needed. The software is also based on ROS, works independently from any robot manufacturer and can be reused as well as shared via the cloud. Denso has been engaged in the development of ROS components and packages (simulation, control, path creating) for its robots since 2012 and now uses an open platform for controlling the Cobotta.

Felipe Garcia Lopez from Fraunhofer IPA focused on a networked navigation solution for mobile robots in industrial applications. This is particularly useful for changing environments in which mobile robots should independently select free routes. Fraunhofer IPA and Bär Automation, for example, have implemented a navigation solution for agile assembly in automobile production. With this, AGVs can locate themselves robustly and precisely based on sensor data, even without special infrastructure. This makes it possible to easily adapt existing paths or integrate new ones even after commissioning. Since the software's sensor fusion module can process data from almost any sensor, very customer-specific solutions can be implemented.

Another example is the networked navigation for smart transport robots at BMW. Here as well there were few static landmarks, a lot of dynamic obstacles and sparse sensor data in large-scale environments. A process reliability of more than 99% had to be fulfilled. The presented navigation as well as the vehicle control are ROS-based. At the end of the presentation, an outlook into Cloud-Navigation was given: Mobile robots and stationary sensors are then connected using a Cloud-based IT-infrastructure. The environment is cooperatively modelled and SLAM is used. This enables also solutions for “Navigation-as-a-service” meaning map updates and cooperative path planning for each robot. With Cloud-Navigation, local hardware and computational resources can be reduced and the quality and flexibility of the overall navigation system is enhanced.

Thomas Pilz (Pilz GmbH & Co. KG) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Thomas Pilz (Pilz GmbH & Co. KG) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

ROS as an appropriate solution both inside and outside of industry – this was the starting point for Thomas Pilz, Managing Partner of family owned company Pilz. Combined with his own career and his experience with the first service robots, lightweight robots and robots outside production environments, he first described how the question of safety standards has changed in recent years. The definition and understanding of a robot is currently in the process of changing significantly. For Pilz, systems such as the Care-O-bot® from Fraunhofer IPA are the new upcoming robots. They operate outside of cages, are mobile and users can easily interact with them and program them using ROS. He sees ROS as a success factor for service robots because of its modular design, its standardization, additional flexibility through programming languages and its networked, interoperable system in line with Industry 4.0.

Robots that are to interact with humans are also changing the required safety technology at Pilz in the long term because all previous infrastructure such as fences is no longer required. This led Pilz to develop its own robot arm with appropriate safety technology. They use ROS modules developed by Pilz because they are breaking new ground with the development of the robot arm and can thus fall back on a broad programming knowledge base. They had nothing to lose with the new product. However, in order for them to meet the safety standards, the modules must no longer be changed in an uncontrolled manner. To improve this, Pilz recommends changing the safety standards so that they are also amenable to Open Source. Finally yet importantly, he believes that the term robot manufacturer will also change, because this role will increasingly be fulfilled by those who implement the application and no longer by those who produce the robot or components for it. In the lively discussion after the presentation, Pilz once again emphasized two arguments in favour of ROS. First: When it is said that ROS is tedious, one should bear in mind that the development of proprietary software is also difficult. Second: ROS is tedious, but fun. Pilz also sees ROS as a decisive factor for employee satisfaction and as an argument for staying with Pilz.

At the end of the conference, Gaël Blondel from the Eclipse Foundation presented the Eclipse Foundation and its Robotics Activities. The platform with around 280 corporate members, half of them from Europe, provides a mature, scalable, and business-friendly environment for open source software collaboration and innovation. Eclipse is vendor-neutral and offers a business-friendly ecosystem based on extensible platforms. They offer their own IP management and licensing but also accept other business-friendly licenses. Several working groups are particularly engaged in development processes for robotics. One example for a robotic project managed with Eclipse is the EU project RobMoSys that aims to coordinate the whole community’s best and consorted efforts to realise a step-change towards a European ecosystem for open and sustainable industry-grade software development.

At the end of the event, Mirko Bordignon and Thilo Zimmermann thanked the participants for another great and record breaking ROS-Industrial Conference. Presentations and videos of the event have been made available on the event website:

ROS Industrial Conference #RICEU2018 (Session 3)

From public funding opportunities to the latest technologies in software and system integration, the combination of robotics and IT to hardware and application highlights: ROS-Industrial Conference 2018 offered a varied and top-class programme to more than 150 attendees. For the sixth time already, Fraunhofer IPA organized a ROS event in Stuttgart to present the status of ROS in Europe and to discuss existing challenges.

This is the third instalment of a series of four consecutive blog posts, presenting content and discussions according to the sessions:

  1. EU ROS Updates (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  2. Software and system integration (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  3. Robotics meets IT (watch all but 1 talks in this YouTube playlist)
  4. Hardware and application highlights

Day 2 - Session “Robotics meets IT“

Henrik Christensen (UC San Diego) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Henrik Christensen (UC San Diego) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The third session testified the growing importance of ROS to support the development and deployment of robotic solutions from companies outside the traditional boundaries of this industry. Predominantly software players such as Amazon or Google now offer platforms leveraging ROS, which they described during the session.

Henrik Christensen, from UC San Diego and ROBO Global, gave a very inspiring keynote speech on why robotics is increasingly using cloud technologies and how it will benefit from them. He outlined three factors as current business drivers for this development: the increasing demand for flexibility in production, the aging world population and the associated increasing demand for service robots at home, and finally the trend that more and more people live in cities, posing great challenges for logistics. All robot solutions must be cost-efficient and robust at the same time in order to offer the required reliability. If computer performance always had to be on board, the hardware would often be inadequate (e.g. for slim service robots for private use) or the costs for suitable hardware would be too high (e.g. for autonomous cars).

Technologies from or in the cloud can be a solution for this. Christensen presented the value of these ecosystems using extensive market examples and explained how they differ in agility and size. Many successful companies, primarily in the USA and Asia, have shifted their business model from owning things or technologies to orchestrating them and offering services. For robotics, ROS 2.0 can be a decisive door opener here, offering the standardization required for platforms.

Milad Geravand (Bosch Engineering) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Milad Geravand (Bosch Engineering) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The next presentations in the session took up these and similar ideas and presented existing solutions. Milad Geravand from Bosch Engineering presented a modular software platform for mobile systems such as cleaning, off-road and intralogistics robots and how they can be developed more efficiently. In his experience, the difficulties in the development process are similar in many companies: The applications are usually very different, the software is becoming increasingly complex, a structured deployment and integration process is lacking. ROS is not yet ready for the products and the leap from prototype to series production is still too big. With the software platform presented, which is based on ROS, Bosch would therefore like to address precisely these challenges and enable uses cases to be developed quickly and reliably.

Eric Jensen, working for Canonical, the company well known for the Ubuntu Linux distribution, presented the advantages of Ubuntu Core especially with regard to security that is still an open issue for ROS. The mentioned advantages are: A minimal, transactional Ubuntu for appliances, safe and reliable updates with tests and rollbacks, app containment and isolation with managed access to resources, a unique development environment familiar for Linux developers and the possibility to easily create app stores for all devices needed. Furthermore, Ubuntu has one of the biggest developer communities in the world and is backed by Canonical itself, an important plus for security. Last but not least, the system offers automatic security warnings for the „snaps“, the special package format in Ubuntu, system audits through package verification and compliance management – all are important features for an improved security.

Roger Barga (Amazon AWS) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Roger Barga (Amazon AWS) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Only a few weeks before the ROS-Industrial-Conference, Amazon, for a long time far more than an e-commerce store, had introduced its new platform AWS RoboMaker, which caused a sensation beyond the ROS-Community. Roger Barga, General Manager at AWS Robotics & Autonomous Services, kindly presented this novel development at the conference. Amazon's commitment to robotics is based on discussions with around 100 companies, during which they were able to identify two main problems in robot development. On the one hand, this is a very high demand for automation solutions with simultaneous difficulties with ROS such as security or performance. On the other hand, the development process is usually very inefficient.

The RoboMaker platform addresses these requirements with its four main components. It offers a browser-based development environment, which in turn has integrated cloud extensions for ROS as well as a simulation environment. The cloud extensions range from machine learning tools to monitoring and analytics. Concrete capabilities for robots include speech recognition and output, video streaming, image and video analysis, as well as logging and monitoring with Amazon CloudWatch. The simulation environment allows thousands of simulations to be run in parallel. The fourth component is fleet management, so that robot applications can be deployed over the air. The presentation ended with a short introduction to the learning environment of RoboMaker, with which Amazon applies reinforcement learning to robots. The robots then learn according to the principle "trial and error". By merging all errors within a fleet in the cloud, a large knowledge base is quickly available and not every single robot has to make a specific error to learn from, but it benefits from the learning experiences of other robots in the fleet.

The topic of robotics in the cloud was also the focus of the lecture by Christian Henkel from Fraunhofer IPA. In his experience, the deployment of ROS-based applications on distributed systems such as mobile robots is still too great a challenge, which he would like to address in his work with docker containers (dockeROS). With his solution, it is possible to simply run ros nodes in docker containers on remote robots.

Martin Hägele (Fraunhofer IPA) moderates a panel discussion with Henrik Christensen (UC San Diego), Oliver Goetz (SAP), Michael Grupp (magazino), Niels Jul Jacobsen (MiR) and Damon Kohler (Google).

Martin Hägele (Fraunhofer IPA) moderates a panel discussion with Henrik Christensen (UC San Diego), Oliver Goetz (SAP), Michael Grupp (magazino), Niels Jul Jacobsen (MiR) and Damon Kohler (Google).

With Damon Kohler, Google Robotics and its recently presented cloud solution were also represented at the conference. In his introductory remarks, Kohler mentioned several challenges related to cloud robotics, including security, connectivity and latency, and distributing work, e.g. partitioning problems. In contrast, he sees advantages such as scalability, collaborative perception and behaviour and a robust change management and monitoring. He sees cloud robotics as a further development of the well-known principle "sense -> plan -> act" around the component "sense -> share -> plan -> act" and as an interplay of edge and cloud processing.

The aims of cloud robotics are an increased launch cadence, more data and more users and a better resource utilization. This shall be reached by infrastructure as a service, design for small and decoupled components as well as tools for automation and orchestration. The ROS nodes correspond to the Google micro-services: They are stateless and replicable, which means horizontally scalable. The container orchestration engine Kubernetes helps to deploy and release these micro-services. Several mature and robust logging and monitoring tools like Stackdriver help managing the system. The heart of the whole is the Cloud Robotics Core, being available from beginning of 2019 that enables to integrate Kubernetes on robots. Overall, Google’s vision is an open platform and a thriving ecosystem where integrators, developers, hardware developers and operators can collaborate with customers efficiently.

The second day of the conference ended with a panel discussion. The panellists were Henrik Christensen (UC San Diego), Oliver Goetz (SAP), Michael Grupp (magazino), Niels Jul Jacobsen (MiR) and Damon Kohler (Google). Moderated by Martin Hägele (Fraunhofer IPA), they summed up some advantages from their respective company perspectives, but also existing challenges of ROS and the role of open source software and robotics for their corporate strategy.

ROS Industrial Conference #RICEU2018 (Session 2)

From public funding opportunities to the latest technologies in software and system integration, the combination of robotics and IT to hardware and application highlights: ROS-Industrial Conference 2018 offered a varied and top-class programme to more than 150 attendees. For the sixth time already, Fraunhofer IPA organized a ROS event in Stuttgart to present the status of ROS in Europe and to discuss existing challenges.

This is the second instalment of a series of four consecutive blog posts, presenting content and discussions according to the sessions:

  1. EU ROS Updates (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  2. Software and system integration (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  3. Robotics meets IT
  4. Hardware and application highlights

Day 2 - Session “Software and System Integration Topics“

Dave Coleman (PickNik) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Dave Coleman (PickNik) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The second day of the conference started with the session "Software and System Integration Topics". Dave Coleman, founder of Picknik Consulting and lead maintainer of MoveIt!, opened the session with a very personal keynote about his commitment to open source software, from his student days to his role as an entrepreneur. He reported how he got in touch with the beginnings of ROS at Willow Garage and highlighted the unique spirit with which the project was incubated. He introduced the successful MoveIt! library, shared his lessons learned and the challenges which many open source projects face. As a proof of how Open Source and business can successfully coexist, he described the founding of PickNik and how the company is profitable without investors.

The following presentations were more technical and started with Víctor Mayoral Vilches, CEO of Acutronic Robotics. He talked about his company's solutions for system integration in modular systems, through the device H-ROS SoM (System on Module), used as example. In his opinion, ROS already addresses many programming needs, but system integration goes far beyond programming and requires extensive resources for each new project. He therefore sees modularity as an essential improvement. Combining the features of a real-time capable link layer made of RTOS and the Linux Network stack, and ROS 2.0, he presented the challenges and developed solutions to achieve easier system integration. He also gave insights into the use of AI to further reduce programming efforts and to train the robot instead, a technology that is still in its infancy. As part of a Focused Technical Project with ROSIN, the company also worked on the interoperability of modules.

Jon Tjerngren (ABB) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Jon Tjerngren (ABB) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Jon Tjerngren presented how ABB robots can be used with ROS. For this purpose, the company developed various ease-of-use packages with ROS that simplify and accelerate the setup of ABB robots. All of them are already freely available online: abb_librws can be used to off-load of computational heavy tasks, e.g. image processing. abb_libegm can be used for motion correction and as an StateMachine add-in for remote control.

ROS2 Embedded tailored to real-time operating systems was the topic of Ingo Lütkebohle’s presentation from Bosch Corporate Research. He emphasized the importance that ROS must also be integrated into the firmware. This would better address four challenges: hardware access, latency, power savings, and safety. To this end, he presented a solution developed in the OFERA project with which ROS2 can be used in microcontrollers.

André Santos from INESC TEC and University of Minho, focused on software quality. More and more robot systems are safety-critical systems, which places very high demands on the quality of the software. Finding errors in the code early on reduces costs and development time. Although there are various static analysis tools, none offers ROS-specific analysis. This is why the HAROS (High Assurance ROS) framework was developed, which is capable of extracting and, to some extent, reverse-engineering the computation graph. It also provides a visualization of the extracted graph and enables property-based testing for ROS.

Anders Billise Beck (UR) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Anders Billise Beck (UR) at ROS-Inudstrial Conference 2018

Anders Billersoe Beck from Universal Robots was the last speaker in the second session. He introduced the new UR e-series (with integrated force/torque sensor, 500 Hz controller frequency and more new features) and how ROS supports it. For this, a new driver is developed in a Focused Technical Project of ROSIN together with the FZI, which will also remain open-source. The goal is to make a UR robot easy to use and enable plug-and-play with ROS. The driver should make two modes of operation possible: remote control and ROS URcap embedding. More supported features are calibration, a new safety system and easier programming. Beck concluded the presentation with some points that he believes are in need of improvement to make ROS ready for industrial applications. These are easier general use, proper handling of hard and soft real-time boundaries and supporting more control in edge devices.

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific Training Milestone

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific, supported by Southwest Research Institute, has now trained more than 100 participants on ROS since its start in 2017!

On 11-13th December ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific conducted a Basic course on ROS, at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, Singapore. It was followed by an Advanced topic course on the 14th December.

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific December 2018 Training - Basic Course

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific December 2018 Training - Basic Course

The workshop was led by Dr. Joseph Polden, and the full class of 15 participants was first introduced to the fundamental concepts of the ROS architecture and package ecosystem, followed by hands-on exercises in motion planning and perception.

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific December 2018 Training - Group Photo

ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific December 2018 Training - Group Photo

Thank you again for those of you who participated in this round of training! Please reach out to ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific ( if you have interest in signing up for our upcoming ROS training events in 2019!

ROS Industrial Conference #RICEU2018 (Session 1)

From public funding opportunities to the latest technologies in software and system integration, the combination of robotics and IT to hardware and application highlights: This year's ROS-Industrial Conference 2018 offered a varied and top-class programme to more than 150 attendees. For the sixth time already, Fraunhofer IPA organized a ROS event in Stuttgart to present the status of ROS in Europe and to discuss existing challenges.

This is the first instalment of a series of four consecutive blog posts, presenting content and discussions according to the sessions:

  1. EU ROS Updates (watch all talks in this YouTube playlist)
  2. Software and system integration
  3. Robotics meets IT
  4. Hardware and application highlights

Day 1 - Session "EU ROS Updates"

Mirko Bordignon (Fraunhofer IPA) opening ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Mirko Bordignon (Fraunhofer IPA) opening ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The topic of open source software for robotics was present in the media throughout the year, and announcements that companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft would rely on ROS made waves outside the community, too. In addition, there is a booming robotics market. Martin Hägele (Fraunhofer IPA) highlighted this in his opening talk based on current market figures and areas of application for industrial and service robotics. In this respect, it is not surprising that politics and research funding on a national and international level are becoming increasingly aware of ROS. The speakers on the first day of the conference presented the projects and activities currently underway here.

ROSIN project overview

Bringing ROS into industrial application in Europe is one of the main activities of the EU project ROSIN (ROS-Industrial Quality Assured Robot Software Components) that Carlos Hernandez Corbato of TU Delft presented. This runs from 2017 to 2020 and is mainly involved in three fields:

  1. Further development of ROS components within the framework of so-called Focused Technical Projects (FTPs)
  2. Tools for software quality assurance
  3. Education activities

Applications for FTPs can still be submitted until 2020. The next cut-off date is April 5th 2019. All information on the short application process can be found here. A decisive criterion: The project provides funding for developments for which there are concrete market requirements. For this reason, the project finances one third of the software development and the applicant takes over the other two thirds.

Carlos Hernandez Corbato (TU Delft) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Carlos Hernandez Corbato (TU Delft) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Successful FTP examples Pilz, Nobleo, PPM and Roboception

ROSIN granted already 20 applications for FTPs and 21 more are under review. Here are four examples of successful FTPs:

For Pilz, “Industrial Trajectory Generation for MoveIt!” was granted: Most industrial robot manipulators supported in ROS come with a MoveIt! configuration. The Motion Planning plugin for RViz allows simple and visualized planning and execution of free-space motion. Planning and obstacle avoidance work mostly out-of-the-box. This FTP addresses Cartesian motion: existing libraries for Cartesian trajectory generation lacked a user-friendly interface. The FTP implements a trajectory generator with a MoveIt!-interface for easy planning and execution of Cartesian standard-paths. In addition, the blending of multiple sequential motion commands is realized.

For Nobleo Projects, “Full Coverage Path Planning and Control“ was granted: Many robotic applications need to plan a path that passes over all points of an area or volume of interest while avoiding obstacles. As soon as a path is planned, the next challenge is to control it. As neither ROS, nor ROS Industrial are currently providing needed packages incorporating this (complete) coverage path planning or trajectory tracking functionality, this FTP proposes to develop, verify and validate these packages.

For PPM, the FTP “ROSweld” was granted: It develops an innovative ROS based framework for planning, monitoring and control of multi-pass robot applications with an intuitive, user-friendly GUI. The framework is built upon components from the project partners’ previous research and existing ROS modules. ROSWELD is demonstrated by the case study in heavy, multi-pass welding.

For Roboception, the FTP “Visard4ROS” was granted: Visard4ROS will provide a ROS interface to fully exploit the capabilities of the rc_visard sensor and to easily integrate it into robotic products or research platforms. As part of the process, Visard4ROS will also provide documentation for integration of sensors with standard industrial interfaces such as GigE Vision and GenICam, plus examples and good practices for using separate libraries to build ROS-I hardware drivers.

Education activities

Stephan Kallweit (FH Aachen) and Jonathan Hechtbauer (Fraunhofer IPA) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

Stephan Kallweit (FH Aachen) and Jonathan Hechtbauer (Fraunhofer IPA) at ROS-Industrial Conference 2018

The second goal of ROSIN are education activities. Stephan Kallweit (FH Aachen) and Jonathan Hechtbauer (Fraunhofer IPA) presented the two formats with which the project conveys ROS knowledge. One of them is the ROS-I School. It addresses university students and young professionals to get an entry to the ROS-Industrial eco-system. Its teaching concept consists of seminars, tutorials and workshops. In addition, ROSIN has founded the ROS-I Academy. It consists of a ROS-I certified engineer program to assess certain skills within the ROS-Industrial software engineering eco-system. The certified skills comprise basic knowledge in ROS-Industrial, skills in code review and specialised ROS-Industrial topics. Check out the website for upcoming events.

Quality Assurance Tools

The third main activity of the ROSIN project are measures and technologies to improve the quality of software. Adam Alami and Zhoulai Fu (IT University of Copenhagen) presented the ongoing steps. On the one hand, a process and supporting tools are developed for quality assurance, where the quality of packages can be measured, assigned and displayed. Furthermore, ownerships for QA practices, tools and infrastructure will be appointed. Furthermore, code review practices are going to be reinstituted and a code scanning method and tool will be implemented. A quality hub website is already online in order to create a source of knowledge for quality assurance. A source of collaboration for quality assurance offers this page.

Another quality improvement measure is the automated code testing. Traditional platforms are not effective enough to provide the reliability that ROS needs today as they run the same and very few test harness for many times. However, a ROS package is reliable, when it works as expected for all run-time scenarios. That is why ROSIN aims at developing a reliability-oriented testing framework that will be integrated to the ROS ecosystem.

Outlook: Further research activities thanks to RobMoSys and SeRoNet

The conference day ended with two contributions on other research projects that also rely on ROS. Dennis Stampfer (University of Applied Sciences Ulm) presented RobMoSys. It aims at coordinating the community’s efforts to realize an industry-grade software development European ecosystem that is open, sustainable and ensures industrial quality. This shall increase the scalability and quality of robotics software development, help to commoditize base functionality, such as motion control, navigation, software components of certifiable quality and achieve predictable system integration. It addresses user requirements like, among others, reduction of development time and costs, shorter time to market and safety via a model-driven approach.

Björn Kahl (Fraunhofer IPA) presented SeRoNet. This project intends to significantly simplify the design, development, and deployment of service robots in a variety of areas, from logistics, care, and healthcare to assembly support in manufacturing operations. Through an online platform, users, system integrators and component manufacturers of service robot solutions will be able to collaborate efficiently and jointly support solutions from requirements analysis to deployment. The SeRoNet platform (available from summer 2019) will bring together users and producers of robotic solutions and will create a market for service robot solutions, services and hardware as well as software components for application solutions. Both projects will publish Open Calls in 2019, for which companies involved in robotics can apply for funding.

Observations from the first RIA Robotic Grinding and Finishing Conference hosted by 3M

A recent conference brought together end-users, solution providers, OEMs and researchers to discuss the latest in robotic applications around grinding and surface finishing ( It was an eye opening event and the first of its kind to focus on automation for these types of processes. While there are many conferences on automation, the topics of surface grinding and finishing are rarely at the top of the topic areas. This event also underscored how there are few specialists in this area.

Day 1

The first panel of note discussed whether to automate these operations and how to understand if there was benefit in attacking what is typically considered manual work. There were a number of assumptions that went into the approach, but we learned quickly there was a lot of interest as this was an audience that has historically struggled with legacy approaches and hardware in automating such operations and processes.

Charles Gales of Weldon Solutions Presents on Automating of Complimentary Processes as a means to introduce surface finishing to your operations.

Charles Gales of Weldon Solutions Presents on Automating of Complimentary Processes as a means to introduce surface finishing to your operations.

The sessions’ two main points were: automate as you can, such as complimentary processes (capture more work with that automation investment), understand your process and burden, and be cognizant of the fact of how you do it a certain way manually today doesn’t mean that will be the most optimal way to execute your process robotically.

Force control was the next panel that gained a lot of attention. Obviously, force/torque sensing in a number of areas has become an area of active robotic interest in traditional automation applications and of course applicable in surface processing. There were introductory conversations about the types of force control, such as the pros and cons of passive versus active. A number of compelling applications leveraging active force control were featured. ATI, PushCorp and FerRobotics all offer approaches to meet a wide array of client needs and applications.

ATI, PushCorp, and Fer Robotics participate on a panel discussing force control in surface finishing and grinding applications.

ATI, PushCorp, and Fer Robotics participate on a panel discussing force control in surface finishing and grinding applications.

Near the end of the day was an additional panel around DIY Integration, which was incredibly eye opening and generated a lot of conversation. The panelists – Brandon Berth, from Kohler, Matt Morrison, from Marshalltown, and Scott Harms, from MetalQuest – shared interesting stories about making progress on their automation journey through trial and error and developing their own in-house skills to manage deployments. These were stories that relied on a commitment and a process; starting small, developing the skills and gradually moving to more complex applications.

Day 2

The second day started off with Kuka presenting on enabling small and medium enterprises to take on grinding application development. The key tool they demonstrated was the ability in their simulation ecosystem to empirically model the sanding process and highlight the path and planned surface contact and subsequent material removal. This provided a very compelling visual assessment for the grinding process as it is being developed in their off-line environment.

The next two presentations were very interesting as they showcased two competent integrators in the space. What was evident, even though their core expertise varied, was that they relied heavily on the teach pendant and skilled online programmers to really bring the process over the finish line. Much like the prior presentations, or the presentations by the DIY’ers, here again we were relying on skilled technicians and industrial robot programmers to complete the implementation of the automation. The level of variation management is limited due to the nature of the deployments. Also, for some of these applications, it may not be realistic to enable too much flexibility as the broad array of complex surface finishing applications was impressive.

I had the opportunity to talk about ROS-Industrial and the work that has been going on in surface finishing using perception and advanced path planning and process planning techniques. This space has talked about path planners (Trajopt!) and applications (Robotic Blending, A5 and undergrads using these tools), so I won’t get into those details here, but two thing are evident. There is a need to change how we approach these processes if we want to truly attack these types of applications. We can’t rely on skilled robot techs to have a teach pendant in-hand. Not every company can grow that expertise in-house over years. Even if they do, how do they scale beyond their core facilities?

Panel on advances in surface finishing moderated by Jay Douglass of the ARM Institute

Panel on advances in surface finishing moderated by Jay Douglass of the ARM Institute

I was asked about the capabilities in the blending and A5 videos and how ready they are to go into anyone’s plant. That is a great question, and I would be asking that, too, if I was in that seat, as I did when I was on the industry side. We are working on that, hence we were there with the ARM Institute and all the interest in the surface finishing topic calls, and continued development of A5, and an additional milestone upcoming for Robotic Blending. That is why there is a ROS-I Consortium and a ROSIN initiative in the EU. We will continue to make the modules more robust and build out application examples that can be leveraged and molded into end-user capability. In the meantime we hope to entice integrator and solution providers to embrace a ROS-based software approach along with our OEM partners. If we work together we can build out reusable components that meet this need, in this greatly underserved area. The exciting part is there is a lot we can do, and it doesn’t have to that far away! It was great to see 3M, our hosts, showcase a ROS-based demonstration and do their part to introduce the concepts and how they could lend a hand in solution development. We are excited to have 3M as such an engaged partner and hope together we can keep growing the open-source tool revolution! #GoROS