For industrial application: Features of the new ROS driver

In cooperation with Universal Robots A/S (UR), an international producer of collaborative robots, FZI has developed two new features for a ROS driver, which was developed at FZI in 2019. This makes UR the first manufacturer to incorporate a solution for Cartesian trajectories for control directly in the industrial robot via an open ROS interface. Until now, Cartesian motions had to be solved approximately within ROS itself. The new feature also makes Cartesian robot control usable for Universal Robots programs with the "ROS as a service" application.

A human places the workpiece in the working area of the robot, which then polishes it until it shines – this is what human-robot interaction can look like. In practice, control is usually based on so-called cartesian trajectories. Unlike joint-based control, it is easier to program how a robot arm should move in the application, for example. In this case, the robot moves along the X, Y and Z axes of a Cartesian coordinate system and moves specifically along paths in three-dimensional space. In the Robot Operating System (ROS), open-source solutions for programming robots can be found for many applications - including polishing or grinding workpieces. Most of the algorithms are tailor-made for joint-based path planning. For industrial practice, users so far had to use numerical approximation solutions from ROS for the required Cartesian trajectories. With the new features developed by FZI, the internal robot capability developed by the manufacturer to execute Cartesian movements can now be used openly for the first time. The additional application "ROS as a service" also provides a new interface that allows the programming unit of the UR robot to easily access software modules from the ROS world. Dr.-Ing. Arne Rönnau, head of department at FZI, explains: "This is the first time that a manufacturer has opened up its structures so extensively for ROS. A paradigm shift is taking place here right now in the ROS world, which brings exciting development opportunities for professional industrial applications."

With the extension of the driver, FZI and Universal Robots are making an important contribution to the open source framework ROS and creating new opportunities for further research. Dr.-Ing. Arne Rönnau emphasizes: "In its robotics research, the FZI uses and develops open source libraries and frameworks to a significant extent. The combination of robust solutions from industry with innovative state-of-the-art algorithms from research offers great potential. Our goal is to combine research and industrial application. Our expertise in the field also makes us the optimal contact for such projects and we would like to support SMEs in particular with our know-how." As an independent knowledge and transfer institution, the FZI also provides support through appropriate training courses and develops practical solutions for various industrial applications.

The development of the new features took place as part of an industrial project with project partner Universal Robots. The research was co-financed by ROSIN - ROS-Industrial Quality-Assured Robot Software Components. This is a project funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, which aims to make ROS more accessible to businesses.

Related links

Click here for the new ROS software components on GitHub and here for the latest UR driver. The "ROS as a service" application can be found here.

A video of the highlight robotics projects at FZI from 2020 that used ROS can be found on our YouTube channel here.

Information about our offer for ROS training and consulting can be found here.