Robot Programming by Demontration

Pictured below is Motoman EA1900 industrial robot.

EA1900 Industrial Robot

Industrial Robots, are unlike many of the other robots I talk about on this blog, they are in fact usually just big manipulator arms. They don’t walk around, they stay in one spot and do the same thing over and over again. This industrial robot, the EA1900 sells for about $70,000. Its primary purpose is welding.

In addition to the $70,000 cost of the robot, actually getting it programmed and into production can cost at least that amount again, and maybe as much as $200,000 more.

Programming industrial robots is tedious. They can be programmed by placing them in learn mode, and then moving the arm with a console. It’s not that easy because most industrial robots have six degrees of freedom. That means there are six joints controlled by servo motors. Some bend like your elbow, and some can twist like you can twist you wrist. Three degrees of freedom are required to get the robot arm positioned at the desired coordinate in the three dimensional XYZ workspace. Then you need another three to align the part or tool the hand is holding to the desired Yaw, Pitch, and Roll. It is much easier to understand when you see it graphically.

To get a feel of what is involved in programming industrial robots this way; you can play with RoboSim developed by our friends at the University of Western Australia. It is a simulation that enables you to control a simulated industrial robot. You move the sliders on the console, and the robotic arm moves accordingly.

Tip: After you click on the link, start by clicking on the EXAMPLE button at the bottom, and then move the sliders under the label Forward Kinematics. You can also change your angle of view by clicking on the Gray box where the robot is rendered, holding your mouse button down, and dragging it.

UWA     RoboSim

This way of programming industrial robots may seem tedious. You can also program the robot mathematically. Brush up on your math.

The above formula has nothing to do with Inverse Kinematics which is what you would use to program robot movement mathematically, but it gets the point across. Inverse Kinematics is math intensive and actually much more difficult than this equation.
Dr Sylvain Calinon and others from the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA), in Switzerland have been working on a better way; Robot Programming by Demonstration.
The first video is short and entertaining, the second is longer but gives you a better sense of what is involved.


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