The International Federation of Robotics recorded 3 million industrial robots operating in factories worldwide in 2021. The success rate is expected to increase by 6% in the upcoming years.
Aerospace, food, electronics, consumer goods, e-commerce - the list of industries employing robots goes long. No question, other than boosting efficiency, productivity, and work accuracy, industrial robots also reduce risks of loss and injuries.
The exciting thing is that software developed for robots can play a vital role in determining the effective functioning of machines. The internet is full of hype regarding which robot control software to invest in.
Not every robotic software is suitable for a particular robot, and every type is intended for a different purpose. Users can select software and code the program depending on the requirements. However, comfort, advancement, and security are the top-required features in robotic software.
This robotic control software guide consists of the following:
- A detailed insight into what is an industrial robot software, its application, and its benefits
- An in-depth study of some of the most popular and advanced robot software types
- What factors to look for when considering a top-rated software for a particular robot
- Answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding robot control software
So, without further ado, let's dive right in!
What is Robot Software?
Industrial robot software is a set of instructions given to a robot to perform several tasks. Unlike the past, today, many different software are being developed for various robotic purposes. And thanks to technology, these robot control software are timely updated to meet modern requirements.
Whether welding, assembling, packaging, or manufacturing tools, you can install software and write relevant programs to accomplish the task. Typically, the coding is done in C++ and Python; often, the two are used altogether to write the code for robot software.
The objective of robot software is comfort and assistance. Robotic applications may include the following:
- Command-and-control application: It has point-and-click commands
- Tasking software application: it has drag-and-drop commands/interfaces
The command-and-control application is widely used in scheduling software for motion robotics, while the tasking software application concerns most with setting up delivery routes, security patrols, etc.
Best Robot Control Software Types to Look For
A search on the web can take you to limitless options of robotic software, with everyone claiming to be the best. And like the different types of robots, there are various types of robot software - each with its unique value.
Also, not every robot software would be best for your particular robot, so it is essential to understand different types of robot software before investing in one.
So, long story short, the following are some of the most popular robotic control software types you may find.
Another type of robotic software is simulators; this approach is both time and cost-intensive. A simulator allows you to program your robot independent of the physical machine.
Thus, you can create a program for the robot while the machine rests. Robotic simulation is popular since the program created can be executed straight away without the need for any amendments.
And since modifications are often not required for a simulated program, the output is fast and time-saving. The approach allows you to test various simulation packages to find the most suited application.
Behavior-based simulation is prevalent in the modern world and works best in mobile robotics. In a behavior-based simulation, you can create various "worlds" (the word refers to the areas of rigid objects and light sources).
The interaction between a particular robot and the created "worlds'' paves the way for error-and-trial conduct. Simply put, behavior-based simulators are capable of "learning" from failures.
The 3D modeling and visualization of a robot and its environment is another practical application of robot simulation. Since a virtual robot simulator "simulates" the behavior of a physical robot in the production line, it boosts productivity and ease of work.
In a nutshell, robotic simulation is worthwhile, time-saving, and fruit-bearing. However, the one thing you should note about robot simulators is the unreliability of the promotional video since the only way to gain insight into its working is by testing the program yourself.
Middleware is a type of robotic software mainly intended for complex automated systems. Also termed as "software glue," the approach ensures the successful implementation of the heterogeneous nature of hardware and applications.
Middleware promotes a single, unified interface allowing the users to concentrate on their unique issue areas. However, since using the software requires a comprehensive knowledge of a diverse set of standards, guidelines, and technologies, it may not be the best option for simplified robotic systems.
Interoperability is the prominent feature of middleware, for you can regulate heavy robotic flow sharing common resources. Other benefits of middleware robotic control software are simplifying software design for complex mechanical systems, integrating the latest technological advancements, and improving system performance.
Controlling individual robots in the production chain using middleware is typically not recommended, for the approach can be costly. Also, most people only utilize middleware when coordinating personal, multiple robots on a large scale.
Another thing to note is the transmission of data between two points which makes middleware software an ineffective solution for streamlining operations. Yet, likewise, it is an equally beneficial robot software type for programming complex systems on a massive scale.
Offline programming is one of the popular types of robot control software since it allows the robot to be programmed independently of the robot cell. After the program is written, it is uploaded and executed on the real industrial robot. Furthermore, a graphical 3D model placed inside a simulator represents the robot cell.
Since there is no need to connect to your robot when programming it physically, the approach offers various benefits.
First, you can program your robot outside of the production; thus, the machine can stay in the production while you can program it at your ease.
Second, it results in more efficiency and productivity since the downtime is limited than the alternatives. The quality of the created program is also enhanced along with the quick-shifting between production lines.
Another good thing about offline programming is that the type works excellent with most robot brands.
Lastly, offline programming contrasts dramatically with online programming since the latter involves manually programming the robot. Since it may take more time, offline programming offers a quick and easy solution when programming a particular robot is supposed to be immediate without interfering with the physical robot.
Mobile robots planning or motion planning (also called as navigation problem or the piano mover's problem) refers to breaking down a targeted action job into individual operations. This approach aims to meet the respective movement constraints and achieve optimum functionality.
The path planning algorithm is vital in motion planning, for the machine moves between two points - the starting point and the target point - without interacting with the obstacles in the way.
To simplify, consider the example where programming robot navigation is required. The goal is to perform several tasks inside the specified area, and space constraints are walls and stairs. That is, the robot should be able to do the given job without interacting with the walls or stairs.
The input for the software program would first take note of these constraints and the required tasks to be accomplished. The program's primary focus would aim at the robot's wheels, and commands would be given regarding speed control and when-to-turn.
Henceforth, the motion planning algorithm is effective for complex tasks where several space constraints are to be addressed. Motion planning software is widely used in robots to avoid uncertainty in working areas that the robot may be subject to.
Real-Time Path Planning
Path planning in mobile robot planning involves programming a robot to perform tasks while avoiding obstacles in the surrounding. A more advanced form of this software programming method is real-time path planning, which uses motion planning methods to achieve a real-time objective.
The upgraded functionality goes beyond just completing an operation from starting position to the target position while avoiding certain space constraints. Real-time path planning takes in more complex tasks and uses deep algorithms that involve
- Actively collecting real-time data of the surrounding
- Devising a strategy to prevent collisions from obstacles
It is important to note that real-time path planning can involve more than just space. Unlike motion planning, in which robots were programmed to avoid certain obstacles like walls or stairs during movement, real-time path planning can also control robotic movements.
For instance, you can program a robot's poses, restraining certain movements (poses) that may cause the machine to collide with itself. Also, safe position changing is another feature of this approach and is most prevalent in controlling robotic arms.
Thus, real-time motion planning software allows robots to plan their movements in real-time with a set target of space or poses constraints. It is an effective robotic control software type to make machines adapt to the working environment. Furthermore, it offers safer working for robots without colliding with the obstacles or themselves.
Artificial Intelligence is the most popular software type in robotics, as it gives the machine some aspects of human intellect. Thus, robots programmed with AI can do tasks that typically involve humans.
Robots are automated machines and are designed to perform several tasks. There were many limitations in goal achieving with robots in the past, given their lack of decision-making and reasoning. However, with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, modern-day robots can be programmed to do what else would require humans, such as:
- logical reasoning
- trial and error (learning)
- knowledge representation
Some other areas covered by Artificial Intelligence are perception and speech recognition. Especially in human-robot interaction, speed recognition has proved extremely useful when the robot can understand spoken instructions. Thus, giving input becomes much easier, and the robot can recognize various commands and perform tasks accordingly.
Another excellent invention of AI in robotics is natural language processing. It goes side by side with speech recognition and allows the robot to understand and reproduce human language. The machine will interpret and anticipate codes and instructions of human language (English, for instance) and give output in the same language.
Artificial Intelligence is considered to be the future of robotics given the ease of access and boost in productivity it offers. The demand for AI in robotics is increasing with every passing day thanks to the immense benefits it offers for industries, whether it is sales operations, yielding production, or making other quick decisions.
Robot Control Software Guide - What Factors to Look for When Looking for Robot Control Software?
Various software are intended for different purposes. First, the user needs to install the relevant programming software (purchase if not free) and then code/program the software. The coding will depend on what tasks you want your robot to accomplish, how to take input, and what output to give.
Various software types are available, but selecting robotic control software needs precise judgment. The best robot control software for your robots should meet the following criteria:
- It should come with features to control a robot without the need to understand all of the robotics' complexities.
- It should offer the exact features required by the particular robot you're looking for software for (minus the unnecessary features, which most often make a higher price)
- The package should meet the budget (minus the needless costs for facilities the robot can work better without)
Also, though every software available will have different features, some of the primary factors you should look for in robot control software are the same, as follows:
- The software should promote a simple connection between the machine (robot) and the robot controller.
- The communication between the sender and receiver should be secured by end-to-end encryption.
- The software should offer direct, risk-free execution of the program and movement verification.
- A user-friendly interface for quick processing is recommended, especially if users do not have a prior deep understanding of usage.
- Well communication between sensors, etc.
Also, one of the primary reasons for software failure in robots is hackers manipulating the robotic signals or status of the robot. They can also sneak malware into the robots' software during the data exchange between the robot and input/output devices.
Henceforth, security also plays a crucial role in maintaining an effective production line and securing robotic machines. Always update your robotic software and install the latest features to avail of the latest technological advancements in the robotic industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Robot Process Automation the same as Robot Control Software?
Robot Process Automation is different from Robot Control Software as the former refers to technologies replacing human labor like self-operating physical machines. On the other hand, robots are machines that work in place of or along with humans (cobots, in that case) and are programmed and controlled using robot control software.
The two terms are interchangeably used, and Robot Process Automation is often confused with software robotics (which, again, is different from robot software).
Are Software Robotics and Robot Software the Same Thing?
Software Robotics and Robot Software are different from each other. Software Robotics uses bot programs to automate computer operations that humans would otherwise perform. The term is often used along with Robotic Process Automation, a more popular term.
Contrarily, Robot Software is a set of instructions encoded in a program. These programs are then executed in a robot to perform various tasks.
How are Robots Programmed?
Robots are programmed using various software. The program is first written in a language and then executed on the physical robot to test results. However, some robot control software like offline programming software does not require the presence of a physical machine to conduct tests.
Also, depending on the instructions included in the program, robots can perform various tasks. These tasks can be as small as assembling, sealing, packaging, labeling, or as big as manufacturing tools, welding, and handling raw materials.
Which Languages are Used to Write Programs for Robots?
The program for a robot is written in a language, the most popular of which is C and C++ (C++ is a more advanced version of C language). Another widely used language to write programs for robots is Python, as it can help develop ROS (Robot Operating System).
The two languages are often used side by side, and the pros of both combine to give excellent output. The primary function of C++ is creating control loops, processing images, and hardware interfaces. On the other hand, Python can manage conduct on a larger level and aids in developing tests and proof-of-principles.
Our Final Words
Industrial robots are controlled by software - a set of commands given to robots to accomplish tasks.
Every robotic control software type is intended for different uses. And some of the most popular robot control software types are offline programming, robotics simulators, middleware, motion planning, real-time path planning, and artificial intelligence.
Also, robotic software can be free or paid for. Either way, make sure the considered software robot offers a secure connection between devices, updated features, a user-friendly interface, and a budget-friendly package.