PickNik is collaborating with Universal Robots (UR) and Forschungszentrum Informatik (FZI) on developing the official ROS 2 driver for UR’s collaborative robot arms.
PickNik is developing the UR ROS 2 driver as a test platform for ros2_control, the popular control framework for the Robot Operating System (ROS) that is in the final stages of porting to ROS 2. PickNik is also leveraging its in-house UR5 cobots to further test and integrate the motion planning framework MoveIt to ROS 2. As a member of the ROS 2 Technical Steering Committee, PickNik is hoping these hardware demos with MoveIt 2, ROS 2, and UR cobots will speed up the transition to the more industrial and hardened ROS 2 middleware.
The UR ROS 2 driver is based on the original Universal_Robots_ROS_Driver for ROS 1 and will be fairly similar. However, it will take advantage of new ROS 2 features such as component nodes and zero-memory copy integration with ros_control. From a performance perspective, the major benefit is decreased latency.
The new ROS package is currently only in alpha and provides config files for just the UR5e cobot. PickNik is encouraging the open source community to start submitting patches and bug reports for the new driver as needed. PickNik said launch and config files for the other cobot models, and additional functionality such as end-effector I/O and force/torque data streaming, will be coming soon.
UR is the leading developer of cobot arms and owns roughly a 40% share of the entire market. It recently sold its 50,000 cobot arm, and in 2020 alone it sold 9,000-plus cobots. Cobots are the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation. UR’s cobots are also very popular in the ROS community as the UR3e, UR5e, UR10e and UR16e series are well known for a friendly, intuitive user interface and flexible control modalities.
FZI is a non-profit research institute for applied computer science in Karlsruhe, Germany established in 1985.
UR, along with AutoGuide Mobile Robots, Energid, and Mobile Industrial Robots, is owned by Teradyne. Greg Smith, president of Teradyne’s Industrial Automation Group, recently joined The Robot Report Podcast. He is also the interim president of UR, taking over for Jürgen von Hollen who stepped down at the end of 2020. Greg takes us inside the goals and strategy of Teradyne’s automation acquisitions, offers a unique perspective on mobile manipulation and discusses the future of cobots. You can listen to the podcast below.