Competitive Warehouse Automation with micro-ROS
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Automation is the key to the development within the supply chain and logistics sectors, as it has the potential to improve productivity while reducing costs and protecting workers’ health.
At its most basic, an automated warehouse attempts to cut down on manual tasks that slow down the movement of goods, and to minimize the exposure of human workers to potential hazards. As robotics evolves, ever more warehouses around the word plan to increase their investment in technology, with a focus on automation and scheduling tools.
The demo below is an example of the potential entailed by micro-ROS to act as a first-line player in the next generation of robotics applications in the logistics sector. It showcases a ROS 2 enabled robotic arm (Robotis OpenMANIPULATOR-X) connected to a ST VL53l1X ToF sensor able to measure the distance between a target object and the base of the arm.
The sensor is operated by an Olimex STM32-E407 development board, which features a STM32F407 microcontroller running a micro-ROS app. The app runs on Zephyr, a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) that is especially convenient thanks to the large collection of sensor drivers available, and is in charge of passing the distance measurements to the software controlling the arm kinematics. This communication is mediated by a Raspberry Pi 4 bridge, through which the arm is instructed to grab the object with millimetric precision and relocate it in a different position.
(micro-ROS warehouse automation demo in times of coronavirus pandemic)
Tasks of this kind can be integrated into a bigger and more complex operations chain, as a building block of a fully automated protocol, relevant to sectors such as that of warehouses discussed above.
WHAT IS MICRO-ROS?
micro-ROS is a Robot Operating System specifically tailored for embedded and resource-constrained platforms, such as microcontrollers.
While inheriting most of its key features and architecture from ROS 2, its more famously known elder ‘brother’, micro-ROS bridges seamlessly the ‘macro’ and the ‘micro’ robotics worlds.
micro-ROS is an open-source software that runs on a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS), and uses the DDS middleware Micro XRCE-DDS, that is, DDS for eXtremely Resource-Constrained Environments. Above that, it runs the ROS 2 stack with a few microcontrollers-specific improvements.
micro-ROS offers powerful developer tools, such as a complete build system for different hardware platforms, and the whole pool of robotic applications available in a ROS 2 environment. Along with these, a rich collection of tutorials is available for the user to program its own applications, and out-of-the-box instructions are provided for reproducing compelling use-cases.
WHY USE MICRO-ROS?
One of the advantages of migrating robotics applications towards low-resources technologies is a drastic cost reduction, making micro-ROS especially convenient for both competitive industrial mass production and the access of those who want to move their first steps into robotics on a shoestring budget.
- micro-ROS Openmanipulator demo on github
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MICRO-ROS AND THIS DEMO:
For any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org