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.
DSM has written a software library to be specifically compatible with the Staubli CS8C controller and 6-degree-of-freedom, absolute-position based robotic arms. Other controller/arm combinations may be possible; contact DSM for compatibility information with your system. The Staubli robot controller should be connected to the host PC via standard network cabling. Both the host PC and the robot controller must be on the same subnet. LabVIEW communicates with the controller by first opening a connection by specifying an IP address, a network port, and a username and password. The functions that open this connection will return a reference to this connection.
DSM developed a 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.