Robot Drivers

Robot Drivers

A robot driver controls a particular type of robot that is connected to a computer. A robot driver uses a generic software interface to control and monitor a specific robot controller, enabling a computer to control a robot.

Robot drivers provide an alternative to Offline Programming (where a program is simulated, generated, then, transferred to the robot and executed). With robot drivers, it is possible to move a robot while it is being simulated (Online Programming).

The following article shows an example of an Online Programming project using robot drivers:    
https://robodk.com/blog/online-programming/

Any robot simulation that is programmed in RoboDK can be executed on the robot using a robot driver. The robot movement in the simulator is then synchronized with the real robot and it is possible to debug robot programs in real time.

Note: Robot drivers are located in the folder /RoboDK/api/Robot/ by default. Drivers can be Python files (PY format) or EXE files.

Note: Robot drivers are not post processors. Post processors allow generating a program to be executed by the robot controller (Offline Programming). More information in the Post Processor section.

The following list provides some of the supported robot drivers in RoboDK:

   ABB

   Fanuc

   KUKA

   Mecademic

   Mitsubishi

   Motoman

   Universal Robots

Important: Most robot drivers use a TCP/IP socket communication protocol. It might be required to purchase an additional software option for some robot controllers (from the robot manufacturer) as socket communication might not allowed by default.

Note: End users can add or modify existing robot drivers, then, link the new drivers in the Robot Connection menu. More information in the how to customize a driver section.

How to use Robot Drivers

Follow these steps to use Robot Drivers with RoboDK:

1.    Right click a robot

2.    Select Robot Drivers - Image 1 Connect to robot…

3.    Enter the IP of the robot

4.    Select Connect

A green message displaying Ready will appear if the connection was successful, as shown in the following image.

Tip: Use the ping button to test if the robot is connected to the computer.

Important: Some robot controllers require a specific setup or activating a specific option on the robot controller. Follow the instructions for your robot.

Robot Drivers - Image 2

Tip: Select Get robot joints to retrieve the current robot position from the robot and update the position of the virtual robot in RoboDK.

Tip: Double click Disconnect twice to force the driver to stop. The driver might become unresponsive if the robot stops unexpectedly (due to a collision or axis limits for example), in that case, the driver can be restarted by double clicking Disconnect, then, Connect again.

Tip: Robot programs can also be generated offline and transferred through FTP if the robot and the computer are in the same network, as shown in the Transfer Program section. The robot driver is not used in this case. Provide the IP, FTP user name and FTP password by selecting More options in the robot connection window. Then, programs can be transferred when selecting the option Send program to robot (Ctrl+F6).

Note: Programs created using the RoboDK API can also be used to move the robot in real time. More information in the Using Drivers with the API.

Note: The Troubleshoot section provides more information if the connection does not work.

Using the GUI

A robot program that has been created using the Graphical User Interface (GUI) can be executed on the robot following these steps:

1.    Right click a Robot Drivers - Image 3 program

2.    Check the Run on robot option

3.    Double click the program to start it

The program should start on the real robot and the simulator will follow the robot movements. The Connection status will display Working… in yellow when the robot is busy.

Note: The program icon should be updated as shown in the following image to shown that the program is running on the robot.

Robot Drivers - Image 4

Using the API

It is possible to control the movement of a robot from the RoboDK API, for example, to program a robot from a Python program or a C# application.

The Run on robot option is managed automatically when a Python program is run from RoboDK. Follow these steps to run a Python program on the robot:

1.    Right click a Robot Drivers - Image 5 Python program

2.    Select Robot Drivers - Image 6Run on robot

The program should start running on the robot and the robot connection status will be updated accordingly.

Tip: Select the macro SampleOfflineProgramming.py from the C:/RoboDK/Library/Macros/ folder to test it with a hexagonal path around the current location of the robot.

Robot Drivers - Image 7

 

If the program is executed outside the RoboDK’s GUI (for debugging purposes, or if we are using the RoboDK API for C# for example), we can set the RunMode using RDK.setRunMode to RUNMODE_RUN_ROBOT. This will force the program to run on the robot. It is also possible to establish the connection using robot.Connect().

Note: RoboDK automatically sets the RunType to RUNMODE_SIMULATE by default the RoboDK API is started, unless a Python program is generated or set to Run on robot using the GUI.

The following code shows a brief example to establish a connection with the robot directly from the API:

# Start the RoboDK API

RDK = Robolink()

robot = RDK.Item('',ITEM_TYPE_ROBOT)

 

# Connect to the robot using default connetion parameters

success = robot.Connect()

status, status_msg = robot.ConnectedState()

if status != ROBOTCOM_READY:

    # Stop if the connection did not succeed

    raise Exception("Failed to connect: " + status_msg)

 

# Set to run the robot commands on the robot

RDK.setRunMode(RUNMODE_RUN_ROBOT)

# Note: This is set automatically if we use

# robot.Connect() through the API

 

# Move the robot:

robot.MoveJ([10,20,30,40,50,60])

Tip: Select the macro SampleOnlineProgramming.py from the C:/RoboDK/Library/Macros/ folder for a more complete example. Also, more examples of online programming using the Python API and the C# API are available in the RoboDK API section.

Note: It is also possible to trigger a program created using the GUI from the RoboDK API the same way it can be triggered manually using the GUI, as shown in the previous section. The following example shows how:

prog = RDK.Item('MainProgram', ITEM_TYPE_PROGRAM)

prog.setRunType(PROGRAM_RUN_ON_ROBOT) # Set the run on robot option

# Set to PROGRAM_RUN_ON_SIMULATOR to run on the simulator only

prog.RunProgram()

while prog.Busy() == 1:

    pause(0.1)

print("Program done")


 

Customize Robot Drivers

Robot drivers are located in the folder /RoboDK/api/Robot/ by default. RoboDK links to a specific driver in the robot connection settings:

1.    Right click a robot

2.    Select Robot Drivers - Image 8 Connect to robot…

3.    Select More options…

4.    Locate or enter the path of the driver path in the Driver path section

One robot driver is a standalone console application. Robot drivers can be developed using any programming platform, for example, they can be a Python module (PY format) or any executable programs built with any IDE.

Robot Drivers - Image 9

The robot driver allows communicating with a robot through the command line. The same commands that can be manually executed are also used by RoboDK to drive the robot from the PC. Each robot driver can be run in console mode to test it.

A sample Python driver (apimecademic.py) with its source code to control Mecademic robots is available in C:/RoboDK/bin/robot/.

Double click the apimecademic.py file to run the module in console mode (Python must be installed). The driver will wait for any new commands. For example, we can type the following command to connect to the robot provided an IP and a communication port:

CONNECT 192.168.100.1 10000

If the connection succeeds we should see a SMS:Ready message. Then, we can type the following command to retrieve the current robot joints:

CJNT

We can also type other commands such as MOVJ, MOVL or SETTOOL to move the robot or update the TCP:

MOVJ 10 20 30 40 50 60

Robot Drivers - Image 10

Some robots support monitoring the joint position in real time. In this case it is possible to provide joint position feedback as the robot moves by sending the JNTS_MOVING command. When the driver is run from RoboDK, the virtual robot will follow the movement of the real robot in real time. A new command will not be processed until the Ready message is sent.

Note: When the driver is run from RoboDK, any message sent with the prefix SMS: will be displayed in the Connection status bar. Specific messages are displayed with specific coloring such as Ready (green), Working (yellow) or Waiting (blue). Any other messages will be displayed in red.

The interaction with the console and the connection to the robot are managed by the one Python module for the Mecademic driver. The interaction with the console should be the same for all robots, as described in this section. However, the interaction with each robot depends on the robot manufacturer, in this case we referred the Meca 500 programming manual to send the appropriate commands to move and monitor the Meca 500 robot.


 

Troubleshoot

Setting up the robot driver might not be as simple as generating programs offline (Offline Programming). If the connection does not work, the following steps provide some tips to find the source of problems:

1.    Make sure the IP of the robot is correct: Select the ping button from the robot connection menu (or ping the robot through the command line) to make sure the robot and the computer are in the same network

2.    Set a static IP for the computer if the robot and the computer are not in the same network

3.    Make sure that the firewall on the computer is turned off to prevent blocking any connections

4.    Make sure the communication port is appropriate and available on the robot side

5.    Make sure appropriate instructions are followed on the robot controller depending on the controller model

6.    Double click Disconnect on the Robot connection window to force the driver to stop, then, select connect again to try a new connection

Ping test

A ping test will test the reachability of a robot on an Internet Protocol (IP) network.

Follow these steps to perform a ping test on Windows:

1.    Open a new console window by selecting Robot Drivers - Image 11 (windows key + R)

2.    Type cmd and select OK

3.    Type ping IP, where the IP should be the IP of your robot). Example:        
ping 192.168.125.2

We should see a response similar to the image with a 0% signal loss

Robot Drivers - Image 12

If there is no communication we should verify that the IP of the robot and the PC are in the same local area network (LAN). It might be required to turn off the Windows Firewall or add a rule to allow the communication.

Set a Static IP

Follow these steps to change the IP of a computer:

1.    Select Windows Start➔Control Panel➔Network and Internet➔Network Connections

2.    Double click the local area connection card

3.    Select Properties.

4.    Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)

5.    Select Properties

6.    Enter the IP of the computer according to the robot IP and a subnet mask.

Robot Drivers - Image 13