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Description of the LabVIEW Interface

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The LabVIEW library communicates to the CS8C controller through Ethernet protocol.  Communication is initialized using the “Connect to robot” VI.  Once communication is initialized, the handle for the CS8C is made available so other VIs can use it to send commands to the controller.  The front panel for an example VI is shown below.  A wide range of commands from the VAL3 programming language has been implemented in the LabVIEW library, and others can be easily added.  A partial listing of commands is given at the end of this article.  DSM is happy to help with new commands, as needed.  The motion of the robot can be controlled in concert with GUI input and data acquisition and data processing, allowing advanced trajectory planning in which the motion of the robot is contingent on prior measurements and user input.

VIs Included in the Stäubli LabVIEW Integration Library

  • Connect to robot
  • Disconnect from robot
  • Robot Power Control
  • Edit Tools Dialog
  • Check if Cartesian Move is Possible
  • Get Cartesian Position
  • Get Robot Joint Position
  • Move to Load Sample Position
  • Protected Move
  • Reset Motion
  • Set Cartesian Position
  • Set Joint Position
  • Set Robot Speed
  • Stop Current Motion
  • Wait until Move Completed

The library includes these VI’s, as well as sample programs that show how the subVI’s are used. The VI’s were originally used to implement a control system that coordinates the motion of a TX60 with another axis of position control from a third party and data acquisition.  By leveraging the wide variety of features native to LabVIEW, the entire motion control system was controllable by a single host PC.  In this application, multiple different types of motion control systems, from different companies, using different protocols, were all controllable from a single program.

Robots in Automation and Research

Industrial robots such as the Stäubli TX60 increasingly find roles outside traditional industrial automation.  The same attributes that make them suitable for industrial assembly (repeatability, speed, reliability) are attractive for scientific applications, but the supervisory schemes can be very different for these different applications.  In an industrial environment, a sequence of motions is typically loaded onto the robot controller, with outside interface perhaps from a PLC.  R&D scientists and engineers are more likely to implement supervision from a PC, with flexible routines written in high-level programming languages.  Adapting the robot interface so scientists can program it like other lab control and data acquisition hardware promotes the use of industrial robots in these non-traditional applications.

An Example Scientific Application of an Industrial Robot

   Traditional Custom Goniometer (L) and TX60 Adapted for Use in Materials Characterization (R)

Traditional Custom Goniometer (L) and TX60 Adapted for Use in Materials Characterization (R)

In the US, one of the roles of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) is to characterize the properties of specialized materials and develop test methods for them.  NIST’s Sensor Science Division has facilities for measuring reflectance and scattering of optical materials while illuminating them with specialized light sources at tightly controlled angles of incidence.  In the past, samples were positioned with custom goniometric instruments built specifically for this purpose.  Recently, researchers have begun to adapt industrial robots to this task.  The images below show optical samples being held by a traditional custom goniometer and a Stäubli TX60 robot with a specialized sample holder.

Adaptation of the TX60 for Control with LabVIEW Interface

Dynamic Structures and Materials (DSM) developed the robotic goniometer for NIST using a Stäubli TX60 robot with CS8C controller and the “calibrated arm” option.  In addition to the mechanical and electrical integration tasks such as the design of end-of-arm tooling and integration with a safety circuit, this deliverable required software integration.  The end user wanted to be able to control the robot directly from the LabVIEW programming environment.  This allows a single program running on a host PC to simultaneously take input from the operator through a GUI, plan and coordinate the sequence of moves for the robot and other positioners used in the system, and log data from instruments at specified points in the motion sequence.  LabVIEW contains high level functions that can be used for data analysis, as well as specialized functionality such as EPICS integration.  The freedom to command the robot from a PC running LabVIEW increases the flexibility for high level control and opens programming to a wide range of developers who are fluent in this graphical programming language.


Contact DSM to Purchase

DSM is interested in working with scientists and engineers on new applications that can use the Stäubli LabVIEW Integration library.  DSM has a Certified LabVIEW Developer on staff for programming support, or the library can be licensed separately, with documentation of the interface and how to use the library.  

DSM is a Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer (CLAD) and a NI Alliance Member with a focus on motion control.