There is now an official Robot Operating System (ROS) driver that is compatible with Universal Robots collaborative robots. Third-party developers have created ROS drivers for UR, but the world’s leading cobot company has never before supported or developed any of these drivers.
The ROS driver works with all UR cobots that come with a CB3 or CB3 e-series controller and have specific minimum versions of Polyscope and system software installed. The ROS driver, available through UR’s GitHub account, will remain open-source and rely on future community contributions. The driver currently only targets ROS 1. There is no work planned for ROS 2, but that could change.
Jacob Bom Madsen, Software Product Manager at Universal Robots A/S, wrote on ROS Discourse that “it became difficult to find out which fork had the latest features, supported the right version of your UR software, or utilized the UR functionality in the best way.” To fix this problem, UR and the German research institute FZI created an official ROS driver for UR to ensure its stability and robustness. The project was also supported by the ROSIN EU H2020 project.
There are two modes of operation for the driver:
Remote Control Mode: The driver works like classic ROS drivers, assuming full remote control of the robot without interaction on the teach pendant. This mode targets easy programming research and embedding in OEM systems.
ROS usage in URCap: A sample URCap enables ROS control only where it is needed in the UR program. In this way it enables easier integration with ROS-compatible devices into UR applications. This mode is designed for developers of vision systems, force/torque control, picking algorithms or similar products that integrate with ROS.
UR in mid-September introduced the UR16e, its strongest cobot ever. The UR16e features a 16 kg (35 lbs) payload, a 900 mm reach and ± 0.05 mm repeatability. The UR3e, UR5e and UR10e, the other cobots in UR’s e-Series, offer 3 kg (6.6 lbs), 5 kg (11 lbs) and 10 kg (22 lbs) payloads, respectively. The UR16e is designed for tasks such as heavy-duty material handling, heavy-part handling and machine tending.
UR has sold 37,000-plus cobots, which is by far the most sales of any cobot company. UR President Jürgen von told The Robot Report the UR16e is a milestone release for UR, which was founded in 2015 and acquired by Teradyne in 2015 for $285 million.
“The UR16e is the first step changing UR from a company that’s been pushing technology into a market to UR being more of a product management organization,” he said. “We’ve been listening to the market and customer needs.”