I don't know what level of cofigurability and complexity you desire to
handle, but here goes...
I think there is quite a bit that goes into a PC-based robot control
station. On the hardware side, you will need a I/O board inside the PC
with enough analog, digital I/O and encoder inputs. You will have to
find a way to interface this with the robot controller. For example, I
have used a servo-to-go I/O board (www.servotogo.com) with a TRC-205
amplifier package (see http://pages.prodigy.net/tridentrobotics /) to
connect a PC to a Puma560.
The tricky part is the software in my opinion. You will need to
implement a real-time control loop - which may require you to develop
the controller program on top of a real-time operating system such as
QNX or RT-linux. You will also need to develop additional programs such
as a teach-pendant, trajectory generator and so on. There might be motor
amplifier packages out there that connect to a PC USB port (for example)
and has the control-loop and trajectory generation in-built. In this
case, you won't need to deal with the complexity of implementing
real-time loop in the PC.
In addition, you need modelling parameters for forward/inverse
kinematics and dynamics. This is where you will need support from the
robot manufacturer. For standard robots such as the PUMA, these
parameters are well known, and available in public domain. I don't know
of a library that provides all this functionality out of the box. I was
lucky to have worked on the design and development of such a software
when I was a grad student:
PUMAs I worked with in the 80's ran VAL II, and were controlled via serial
link from a PC with the VAL software installed. It used an interpreted
compiler to read programs and control the motors. It mostly did
pick-and-place pre-programmed moves, but there was one mode, called ALTER,
that could be used for real-time commanding or reaction to sensors. If you
can find the VAL software anywhere, good luck. I believe Staubli is the
company that now makes that style manipulator, and they may be of some
At the end of the last century, I developped a toolbox able to control a
PUMA VALII, ADEPT/STAUBLI V+ or FANUC Karel robot from a PC.
It may be the Mike Ross approach.
I kept the original controller from the robot, but connected through a real
time high speed channel to the PC.
Most of the movement commands where implemented in the PC.
I wrote applications based on this toolbox, written in C , totally resident
in the PC.
More than 100 robots are working that way, some doing pick and place, most
of them doing finishing jobs like trimming and grinding
You can get pretty good used ValII robots from american brokers.
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