Cologne, Germany-based igus GmbH announced that it has made the control and simulation software for its Low-Cost Automation systems available for free. The energy chain systems and polymer plain bearings maker said its robot control offering can provide an easy-to-use introduction to automation.
“As a mechanical engineering company, we are very familiar with the different kinematics, so the next logical step for us was to develop a correspondingly simple and intuitive robot control system,” said Alexander Mühlens, head of automation technology at igus, at a recent virtual showroom. “Robotic kinematics is changing, and we allow developers to build or buy parts for linear-access robots.”
The software joins igus’ modular robolink kits for building collaborative robot arms and drylin product for creating gantry robots. The company‘s U.S. operations are based out of Providence, R.I., and are currently shipping products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
igus robot control software simulates movement
The new igus robot control software allows users to program and control different robot kinematics. A digital twin simulates their movements, enabling operators to program their systems to determine which type of robot is best for their applications before purchase.
Users can teach the digital twin just like the real robot and freely move all axes via a 3D interface. With a teach-in function, they can easily build a robot program, even without a robot connection, igus said.
In addition, the user can define how a robot should move by manually positioning it. By repeating the process, the robot programmer can create the desired motion profile. It is easy to add end effectors such as grippers, and the tool center point adjusts automatically, according to igus.
Software intended to ease programming for actual robots
With the robot control simulation, users can intuitively program a device later, said igus. Every program can be applied to the real robot afterwards.
“You can try it before you buy it, and then can buy the affordable hardware,” Mühlens said. A complete hardware package — such as a drylin linear robot with an integrated control system in the switch cabinet — is available for about $5,400.
Mühlens cited a bin-picking application at Volkswagen as an example of how robots can pick goods from a box, collect samples, or dispense items from a vending machine. igus’ Low-Cost Automation portfolio includes kinematics for articulated arms, delta robots, or linear robots.
“Users can program a robot’s movement by tracing on a touchscreen,”Mühlens said. “There’s a YouTube channel for help. [Users] can push the Play button, and the kinematic simulation runs. They can increase the working volume by four times with a linear DP and a controller.”
For instance, virtual boxes can also be installed to prevent a robot from colliding with a machine. The igus robot control can also be connected to a higher-level control system, either via interface communication with Digital IO or via Ethernet communication using an IP address.
Support for multiple robots
igus said that its developers want to expand the control system even further. “In the future, we want to offer cloud services such as vision integration, remote commissioning, and also online training for a small cost, which the customer can book,” said Mühlens. “Further services such as image evaluation via webcam or bin-picking solutions are planned as cloud-based solutions.”
Mühlens cited the example of a vending-machine application retrieving chocolate with a linear system. “We provide linear access for robots — not just for igus, but also for UR,” he said.
Last year, lean-robotics seller RBTX launched last year in Germany, Austria, the U.K., and France.
“We had the idea of a platform to enable customers to find cost-effective robots, grippers, and vision systems that work together, transparently,” said Stefan Niermann, head of the drylin linear and drive technology unit at igus. “We started with six partners and will get 10 more this year, with 70 to 80 products. There is big demand for six-axis and small delta robots in science and education, universities.”
The igus robot control software is available online free of charge and license-free.