Understanding the Individual Components
Before delving into their combined power, let's briefly understand what each component brings to the table.
MoveIt is an open-source software for robotic or machine manipulation, which is part of the ROS ecosystem. It provides an easy-to-use platform for developing complex manipulation algorithms, including motion planning, kinematics, control, and navigation. MoveIt is widely used for applications ranging from industrial manipulators to humanoid robots.
ROS (Robot Operating System)
ROS is a flexible framework for writing robot or machine software. It's a collection of tools, libraries, and conventions that aim to simplify the task of creating complex and robust robot behavior across a wide variety of robotic platforms. ROS provides services designed for a heterogeneous computer cluster, such as hardware abstraction, low-level device control, implementation of commonly-used functionality, message-passing between processes, and package management.
Linux, the open-source operating system, is a preferred choice for many robotic applications due to its stability, security, and robustness. It offers a free and customizable platform for developing a wide range of software applications. Linux's real-time extension called PREMPT_RT patch is particularly beneficial for real-time deterministic control, where timing is often critical.
Linux's contribution to reliability cannot be overstated. Linux is renowned for its stability and reliability, which are crucial for long-running processes. Its stability as an operating system, especially in handling processes and managing resources, provides a solid foundation for running demanding applications. Linux's ability to handle real-time operations with high efficiency reduces the risk of system crashes or delays, which are critical in time-sensitive robotic operations.
RMP EtherCAT Motion Controller
The RMP EtherCAT Motion Controller for Linux Debian distribution is a high-performance motion controller that uses the EtherCAT fieldbus protocol. RMP is a pure software-based motion controller programmable in C++, C#, VB .NET, or Python. RMP is known for its high-speed, real-time capabilities, making it ideal for controlling robotic actuators with precision and accuracy.
When these four components are combined, they create a powerful ecosystem for robotic development and control.
Enhanced Motion Planning and Control
MoveIt, integrated with ROS, provides advanced motion planning capabilities. Combined with the precise control offered by the RMP EtherCAT Motion Controller, this results in a system capable of executing complex movements with high precision and reliability. This integration is particularly beneficial in applications requiring intricate manipulation or where safety is paramount.
The real-time capabilities of Linux by leveraging Preempt RT, a real-time patch for Linux, complement the RMP EtherCAT Motion Controller's high-speed performance. This combination ensures that the RMP motion firmware, critical user blocks, and the EtherCAT communication process can operate with minimal latency and high responsiveness, which is crucial in dynamic environments or when interacting with humans. The user can decide which parts of their machine code need to run in a real-time Linux Preempt RT patch thread.
The trajectories generated by MoveIt can be loaded on RMP Linux using our RapidCode API. For such applications, users leverage the RMPs Streaming Motion feature. The customer can load all the trajectories at once (only limited by RAM) or load them continuously with a delay.
RMP uses the EtherCAT communication protocol to command motion, or IO signals to various axes. EtherCAT protocol brings about key advantages to the user:
- High-Speed Communication: EtherCAT is known for its high-speed and efficient communication, which is vital for coordinating complex movements.
- Synchronization: It offers excellent synchronization capabilities, ensuring that all parts of the machine work in harmony and with precise timing.
- Scalability: EtherCAT is scalable, allowing additional sensors or actuators to be integrated as the machine or robot evolves.
Flexibility and Scalability
ROS's modular architecture allows easy integration with different hardware and software components. This means the combined system can be scaled or modified relatively easily, adapting to various requirements or integrating new technologies as they emerge.
RMP is an EtherCAT hardware-agnostic motion controller. RMP currently supports over 52 EtherCAT manufacturers and 99 EtherCAT devices. Integrating new EtherCAT devices has always been easy, but we recently made it even simpler (check our blog titled Easier EtherCAT Node Integration with RMP.
In addition, the RMP EtherCAT motion controller is software-based and thus PC agnostic. The user can procure a PC from various Industrial manufacturers in the market that best meets their performance requirements.
Open Source and Community Support
The open-source nature of MoveIt, ROS, and Linux means that a vast community of developers and users continuously tests, refines, and updates the software, contributing to its overall reliability. This community-driven approach helps quickly identify and fix bugs, improve security, and ensure the software stays robust against various challenges.
Application in Diverse Fields
The synergy of these technologies is not limited to a specific field but can be applied across various sectors, including industrial automation, healthcare, and service robotics. This versatility is a testament to the combined system's flexibility and robustness. 3D House printing is an emerging technology that bodes well with the three technologies (MoveIt, Linux, and RMP EtherCAT motion controller).