2012 IR&D Annual Report

A Senior Staff Renewal IR&D Project at Willow Garage, 10-R8224

Principal Investigator
Shaun Edwards

Inclusive Dates:  05/16/11 – 04/01/12

Background — The "Robot Operating System" software, better known as ROS, is an open-source program that provides a common framework for robotics applications. ROS is being heavily used by the research community for service robotics applications, but its technology can be applied to other application areas, including industrial robotics. ROS capabilities, including advanced perception and path/grasp planning, can enable industrial robotic applications that were previously technically not feasible or cost prohibitive. SwRI has already utilized ROS for several industrial and advanced manufacturing projects. Its use has enabled rapid development and overall lower cost. However, ROS use in these projects has been narrowly defined and one goal of the ROS-Industrial program is to generate a framework for broader applications.

Photo: ROS-Industrial has the ability to visualize a robot cell, including fusion of 3D CAD data, shape primitives, and sensor data. This figure shows the various data sources used in the advanced pick and place demo application.
ROS-Industrial has the ability to visualize a robot cell, including fusion of 3D CAD data, shape primitives and sensor data. This figure shows the various data sources used in the advanced pick and place demo application.

Approach — The principal researcher for this project worked closely with ROS developers at Willow Garage to develop an open source ROS-Industrial software stack (software suite) to support the use of ROS for industrial applications. The software provides a standardized interface to a variety of robot controllers, thus enabling robot agnostic ROS software. The initial version of software developed under this project, which includes robot drivers, documentation, and applications demonstrations, was released in March 2012.

Accomplishments — The project has completed the following milestones:

  • Developed a proof-of-concept code demonstrating remote control of an industrial robot via the ROS software.
  • Developed a platform independent messaging structure that allows ROS to interface with a variety of industrial robotic platforms.
  • Demonstrated a dynamic pick and place application that utilizes ROS perception and path-planning capabilities (see video below).
  • Formalized ROS-Industrial as a continuing open source software development program that leverages community contributions from SwRI and other industrial software developers.
  • Initiated ROS-Industrial Consortium to provide industry direction and support for the ROS-Industrial software.
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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.
10/31/16