Universal Robots, has launched something it calls “Universal Robots+” at the Automatica event in Munich. Basically, it’s a sort of app store aimed at creating an ecosystem around UR’s collaborative robots.
In a statement, the company says Universal Robots+ is “a showroom of plug and play application solutions offering a new level of simplicity for companies that want to hit the ground running when installing their next UR robot application”.
By choosing accessories, end-effectors, and software solutions from Universal Robots+, both distributors and end users get “high security and predictability that applications will run well from the start, saving weeks and months in the integration process from concept to operation of the UR cobots”, says Universal Robots.
The company has also launched the associated +You developer program, which is free-of-charge and offers a “powerful marketing and support platform for the flourishing eco-system of UR-robot application developers”.
Universal Robots is building the ecosystem around its three collaborative robot arms – the UR3, UR5 and UR10.
The company also has the so-called URCaps for the development of accessory components that extend the UR robots’ capabilities. The accessories can be customized hardware components, software plug-ins, or a combination of both. The aim of Universal Robots+ is to reduce implementation periods, increase user comfort and reduce costs for all parties involved.
Esben Østergaard, CTO and co-founder of Universal Robots, says: “With Universal Robots+, we create an unmatched win-win-win situation benefitting the developer community, our distribution partners and our end customers.
“The participants in the developer program +YOU will receive free support from Universal Robots when developing URCaps. By integrating the accessory components showcased at the Universal Robots+ showroom, our distribution partners and end users reduce spending on application development and testing when they deploy the URCaps as simple plug and play solutions.
“In short, Universal Robots+ is easy access to efficient, well-proven, and safe automation solutions that we elevate to the next level by collaborating with a crucial component: the developers of today and tomorrow.”
How developers and distributors will benefit
“When developers have received our approval for designing within Universal Robots+, we will support them via our local subsidiaries by providing robots for testing and optimizing URCaps. On request, robots can also be purchased at a reduced price, given that they will be used exclusively for the development and testing of new UR-related components,” says Stefan Tøndering Stubgaard, manager of Universal Robots’ corporate technical support.
After completion of a URCaps prototype, the developer will send it to Universal Robots for examination.
Tøndering Stubgaard says: “Before a new product can be presented in our showroom, we verify its quality. In comprehensive functionality tests, we test whether the URCap can be implemented and operated easily and if the product conforms to Universal Robots’ quality requirements.”
In addition, developers can also get their URCaps certified by Universal Robots. In order to receive this additional quality certificate, developers must document that their solution is already operating in a real application and used successfully by a customer.
Having capabilities featured in the Universal Robots+ showroom is free of charge for developers. In providing this, Universal Robots offers all developers a professional marketing platform granting them access to an ever expanding, global customer network.
Sales of all products and capabilities revolving around the UR-robots’ universe will continue to be provided through Universal Robots’ established network of distribution partners.
In this way, distributors also benefit from this central platform, where they can both offer and access applications developed specifically for the use with UR robots. Universal Robots+ is the toolbox that tailors the optimal solutions for their individual customer needs.
Entering the Universal Robots+ community
Developers need only complete a few steps to get their application solutions featured in the Universal Robots+ showroom. Registration for developers is free in the +You community forum where developers can submit their application ideas. In order to become a member of the +You community, the following conditions must be met:
- Submission of a first draft detailing which type of capabilities is being developed. The following categories of URCaps can be chosen:
- End-effectors: All types of end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) such as grippers, force-torque-sensors, screwdrivers, and many more.
- Accessory components: hardware products, which do not belong into the category of end-effectors – for instance, cable guidance, protective covers, communication modules, vision systems, HMI-panels, etc.
- Software: These are either software plug-ins, which have been developed with the URCaps Software Development Kit (SDK), PC programs, for example, for the simulation of robot systems or programming, or UR-Library Plug-ins for the software of third parties such as the PLC programming suite.
- Moreover, the developer needs to offer an established support service with a response time of maximum 24 hours on week days.
- The developers must present a website with valid contact data.
After verification of the URCaps by Universal Robots, the developers will receive access to the +You online forum, where they can exchange questions and ideas.
In addition, all members of the community will receive access to the company-internal developer support, which will assist (if necessary) in developing a market mature application. Additionally, the URCaps Software Development Kit can be downloaded free-of-charge.
First URCaps developed
The first approved capabilities developed by the developer community accompanied the Universal Robots+ launch at Automatica 2016. One new URCap is the vision-guided pick and place solution from Robotiq, a manufacturer of flexible robot grippers and sensors.
Samuel Bouchard, CEO of Robotiq, says: “The UR robot arms can be equipped with our new camera and vision system and deployed right into assembly within five minutes. There is no need for an external computer to set up, program, or operate the camera.
“Everything can be done within the robot’s user interface. In developing this solution, we managed to meet the need of Universal Robots and our customers demanding an easier and faster implementation of a camera and vision system that can be deployed by anyone.”
Software release reduces implementation time
Alongside the launch of Universal Robots+, a new update for the robot arms’ operating software has been published. The new release (Software Version 3.3) includes updates such as the Profinet IO device functionality. The new compatibility with Profinet protocols opens up numerous additional areas of deployment and activities for robots.
“A key feature of the update supporting the Universal Robots+ platform is the ability for providers to now offer solutions that interface seamlessly with the UR software,” says Østergaard.
Until now, the software enabling communication between developer applications and the UR robot arms had to be implemented by using relatively complex script code, which is time consuming and a difficult task for the majority of end users to handle.
As the Software Version 3.3 now consists in parts of open source software, the developers can implement their software as an add-on, reducing the time needed for implementation at the end customer’s premises significantly, thus reducing both price and potential risks.
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