Modular software architecture

To facilitate the implementation of modular reconfigurable workcells, we developed a software architecture that reflects hardware modularity and enables plug-and-produce connectivity within the workcell. As the backbone, Robot Operating System (ROS) is used. It provides standardized interfaces to robots, sensors, grippers, and peripheral hardware elements and enables plug-and-produce connectivity and communication within the cell. Furthermore, toolchains for quick and efficient setup and programming on the workcell (task-level programming based on FlexBE, skill specification and workcell calibration by kinesthetic teaching) are integrated into the overall software architecture.

The proposed design enables that the cell’s functionalities can be expanded without disrupting the existing software architecture. This is supported by making use of Docker containers for the integration of new software modules. In the Docker containers, new modules can be deployed with all the necessary libraries without causing conflicts with any preexisting software packages. Developers can thus integrate new software without the need to reprogram any of the existing modules, which also eases the deployment of new hardware in the cell.

Design guidelines

Integration of new peripheral devices

Integration of new robots

Development of new robot skills

Task-level programming

Helping tools