Open-source robotics provides users with more freedom

Robotics are moving to the Internet of Things (IoT) through open-source robotics, which allows users to customize a robot’s programming and design. And there are plenty of resources available that can help to simplify the process while enhancing customization.

By Paolo Carnovale January 14, 2017

With the Internet of Things (IoT), the smart factory, and Industrie 4.0 occupying the limelight in the engineering world, it is easy to forget the substantial effect the previous industrial revolutions have had on engineering and manufacturing.

Before the IoT and Industrie 4.0, computer numerical control (CNC) had brought about the biggest change in contemporary manufacturing operations, leading to widespread adoption of automated and robotic solutions. By linking computers with control solutions, companies now have easy access to the Big Data that is underpinning this latest round of industry buzzwords.

Robotics also have been affected by these changes as robot programming is moving to the IoT through open-source robotics, which allows users to customize a robot’s programming and design. While that may seem overwhelming, there are plenty of organizations looking to simplify the process while enhancing customization.

It is hard to imagine any production line or laboratory not having some form of automation in its midst, but robotics have not quite had the same level of saturation, primarily due to the ease at which simple, cost-effective solutions can be developed and deployed. Users now can take all the steps necessary to build a working and programmable robotic arm. In addition, there are sites that show the user how they can deploy open-source resources and controllers that can be used in sophisticated industrial automation applications.

Using industrial formats for the connectors allows users to have a great deal of choice regarding onwards connectivity and integration with wider systems. Indeed, every single part needed to create a complete robotic system is available. There are also kits with joints, stepper motors, and the pieces needed to put everything together, and users also can develop the robots further beyond their kit form by purchasing additional components.

While it may seem challenging, open-source robotics offers users the ability to choose from numerous design file downloads along with a list of components used in the build. This includes servo motors, power supply, and wiring.

Although robots were originally conceived to replace human workers, most of their benefits now arise from the way they complement the human workforce. By undertaking repetitive and laborious manual tasks, robots free up their human peers to undertake more value-added work that makes better use of their time and capabilities. The recent developments are also affordable, which is attractive for smaller establishments that may operate on a lower budget.

The recent developments make current robots ideal for use in applications such as R&D departments, educational establishments, laboratories, and small-to medium-sized industrial factories, or anywhere where a reliable, precise, affordable and flexible collaborative bench robotic arm is needed.

Paolo Carnovale, head of industrial product marketing, RS Components. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

About the author

Paolo Carnovale joined RS Components in October 2010 and has held a number of senior marketing roles across the business, with responsibility for the definition and implementation of strategy and product/service positioning. Since January 2016, his focus has been to drive forward the marketing strategy for the company’s industrial division. Prior to RS, Paolo gained more than eight years’ product strategy and product engineering experience with automotive systems provider Meritor, and aerospace/defense company Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica). He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the Politecnico di Torino, Italy.

See additional stories about open-source robotic programming linked below.