Conference PaperPDF Available

System architecture and conception of a standardized robot configurator based on microservices

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The design and integration of robotic-based automation solutions is a common problem for robotic component providers and especially for their consumers. In this work, a standardized robot configurator is introduced, based on a modular system architecture and best practice solutions. Due to this modular structure, as a backbone of an intuitive web-based configurator, customized robot applications can easily be planned, visualized, simulated and finally realized. The system architecture of the presented robotic configurator is based on microservices, which is a modern, scalable and complexity-reducing solution for the overall system. This paper demonstrates an exemplary configuration process to get an impression about the prospective use of pre-configured ro-botic solutions.
Content may be subject to copyright.
System architecture and conception of a standardized
robot configurator based on microservices
Eike Schäffer1a, Tobias Pownuk1b, Joonas Walberer1c, Andreas Fischer2, Jan-Peter
Schulz3, Marco Kleinschnitz4, Matthias Bartelt5e, Bernd Kuhlenkötter5f, Jörg Franke1d
1 Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS),
University Erlangen-Nuremberg, http://faps.fau.de
aEike.Schaeffer@faps.fau.de
bTobias.Pownuk@fau.de
cJoonas.Walberer@fau.de
dJoerg.Franke@faps.fau.de
2Robert Bosch GmbH, AndreasFabian.Fischer@de.bosch.com
3ICARUS Consulting GmbH, jan-peter.schulz@icarus-consult.de
4Infosim GmbH & Co. KG, kleinschnitz@infosim.net
5Institute of Production Systems (LPS), Ruhr-University of Bochum (RUB)
eBartelt@lps.ruhr-uni-bochum.de
fKuhlenkoetter@lps.ruhr-uni-bochum.de
Abstract. The design and integration of robotic-based automation solu-
tions is a common problem for robotic component providers and espe-
cially for their consumers. In this work, a standardized robot configurator
is introduced, based on a modular system architecture and best practice
solutions. Due to this modular structure, as a backbone of an intuitive
web-based configurator, customized robot applications can easily be
planned, visualized, simulated and finally realized. The system architec-
ture of the presented robotic configurator is based on microservices,
which is a modern, scalable and complexity-reducing solution for the
overall system. This paper demonstrates an exemplary configuration pro-
cess to get an impression about the prospective use of pre-configured ro-
botic solutions.
Keywords: Configurators, robot configuration, microservice architecture
1 Introduction
The increasing possibilities and functionalities of robot systems and the continuously
growing technical requirements in industrial applications (e.g. high precision, repro-
ducibility and safety) lead to high levels of complexity for the successful implementa-
tion of robotic automation solutions. Robotics engineers need a deep understanding of
robot kinematics, programming and a comprehensive experience to meet the specific
consumers’ requirements. Since necessary engineering tools are not available or are
isolated applications, the functional and secure integration of individual peripheral
2
components is often realized in expensive trial-and-error procedures. The development
processes for robot solutions are therefore characterized by high engineering costs for
robotic system engineers and integrators. For this reason, individual, special-purpose
and therefore complex and unique solutions are created. However, their engineering
expenses do not achieve an economical cost-benefit ratio, especially for small and me-
dium-sized enterprises.
To overcome this issue, we present within this paper we present a concept for an
intelligent standardization and reuse of software, hardware, and peripheral components
in order to achieve a significant reduction in quotation and engineering expenses for
robotic applications. The solution will be a modular platform for planning and simula-
tion of robot-based systems. This platform allows a systematic development, applica-
tion, and marketing in the areas of industry, logistics and services.
The proposed platform includes a robotic configurator that suggests appropriate
best-practice robot component combinations, depending on process and interface char-
acteristics. By using a standardized engineering tool with unified interfaces for kine-
matics, effectors, sensors, peripherals, and controls as well as publicly available soft-
ware libraries and knowledge-bases, a rapid implementation of robotic automation con-
cepts will be achieved.
This article is structured as follows. Section 2 provides a comprehensive insight into
the state of the art and the challenges of the implementation of robotics solutions. The
system architecture for a standardized configuration process is presented in section 3.
Section 4 describes an exemplary configuration procedure of a robot system based on
best-practice solutions. A summary and an outlook about further research work is given
in section 5.
2 State of the Art / Related Work
Looking at the software tools available today in the field of industrial robotics, they are
increasingly focusing on the simulation of automation concepts as a system integration
aid. Known simulation and planning software, such as Microsoft Robotics Studio [1],
Siemens Process Simulate [2], RoboLogix [3], or Webots [4], enable the design and
verification of robot applications in dynamic 3D environments and thus provide an
early detection of process-related issues. Also, approaches exist to work simultaneously
with these tools exist, e.g. the solution developed within the conexing research project
[5]. However, due to the increasing complexity of robot components, it is no longer
sufficient to carry out the design of a robot system solely based on simulation results.
The demand for design methodologies and concepts to provide the best practices of
reconfigurable robotic systems is becoming increasingly important in the industrial au-
tomation field [6]. The design process is often a poorly defined, complex and iterative
procedure, where the needs and specifications of the required artifact are not refined
until the design is almost completed [7]. Especially in this early product development
step, it is crucial, that designers are provided with an interactive and vision-oriented
tool, which supports in the decision-making process to build up reconfigurable robotic
3
automation solutions. Currently available tools (e.g. robolink, [8]), however, only in-
clude specific component segments. On the other hand, centralized, holistic, and pow-
erful platforms are required, that cover the entire product development process, from
design phase to virtual commissioning.
In summary, the current situation can be characterized by specialized solutions for
robot-based automation concepts from certain service providers. Furthermore, a trans-
fer of those concepts to other applications is limited. The elaboration of these solutions
is often carried out by intensive manual exchanges between providers and integrators.
To meet these challenges, the use of web-based technologies represents one of the most
powerful tools for sharing, pooling and distributing information between project’s team
members [9]. By using web-based platforms, it is possible to carry out a simultaneous
and collaborative design processes with an efficient transfer of knowledge between the
project partners [7]. In [10], the optimization of plant engineering and the efficient op-
eration of complex production facilities based on community systems, using knowledge
management techniques, were investigated. Other approaches regard a web-based
worker information system, where data streams from different controller databases are
coordinated and ergonomically presented to the operator [11, 12]. These projects have
shown that a web-based cockpit, which dynamically generates an overview of upcom-
ing tasks, has a positive effect on the interaction between automation systems and hu-
mans [13].
Currently available systems, as described, focus on different sub-areas regarding the
development and integration of robotics solutions. Either they focus on the simulation
of the final application or they provide configuration options for restricted component
areas with different levels of detail. Due to the interdisciplinarity of robotics it is nec-
essary to develop an overlapping ontology for the configurability of robots. The system
architecture defines the submodules, interfaces (APIs) and standards that are brought
together for a platform-compatible overall solution in the context of configuration.
3 Microservice architecture
During a lecture in 2006, the CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels, spoke about small teams
that develop and operate services with their own databases. This was the first time that
microservices were mentioned [14]. Microservice, which does not have an official def-
inition, is a service-oriented architecture in which software is made up of small inde-
pendent services. These services are very loosely coupled, small and focused on a single
feature of the software [15]. There are four principles for the development of micro-
services. A service has only one task and can be programmed within two weeks. The
services work together and only universal interfaces may exist between them [14].
Often the system architecture concepts service-oriented architecture (SOA) and mi-
croservices architecture (MSA) are mixed up. Although both concepts have much in
common, there are some important differences. The biggest differences are in the de-
velopment of the database and the GUI. At microservices, each service has its own
database and an integrated GUI component. In contrast, at SOA the GUI is developed
independently of the services, a database can be used by several services and a central
4
orchestration of the services is needed [16]. There are also differences in the responsi-
bility of services. For example, only one team can be responsible for a service at mi-
croservices, but at SOA different teams can work on one service. This is one reason for
the possibility of an independent deployment of the services at microservices. However,
the entire system must be deployed at SOA. [14]
3.1 Advantages of microservices
Every distributed system also has some of the advantages of microservices. However,
microservices usually implement the concepts of distributed systems and service-ori-
ented architectures more consistently than any other system, so that the potential of
modular services is better used.
Fig. 1. A microservice approach represents a modern and scalable solution, with a sim-
ultaneous complexity reduction of the overall system [18].
Each system can be modularized to a certain degree. But experience shows that modu-
larization is very difficult to implement for a monolith because many dependencies ex-
ist in the software. A monolith is a large coherent program where all logic and data are
processed in a single database. To prevent dependencies, microservices rely on almost
complete autonomy of the services, as shown in figure 1.
Because of the modularization, each service can be independently scaled. Thus, the
entire system doesn’t need to be scaled if only one service is used more intensively.
This does not only simplify the system, but also can generate a decisive competitive
advantage. [14]
In contrast to monoliths, there is a technological freedom for each individual service
in the case of collaborative services of existing systems. This offers two major ad-
vantages. New technologies can be tested on a microservice without affecting other
services. In use, the potential of the technology can be better determined. The risk of a
State in Monolithic approach
State in microservices approach
stateless services with
separate stores
stateful
service
s
stateless
service
stateless
presentation
services
single
database
5
new technology is low because it can be exchanged at any time. The second major
advantage of the technological freedom is the ability to use the most suitable tool for
each task. Databases are the best example. For monoliths, it is necessary to use the same
database with the same properties for each task. However, it might be best to use dif-
ferent database types depending on the task. For example, a data store for documents is
the best database type to save messages between two users of a platform. However, this
is not suitable for linking friends where a graphical database should be used. Both da-
tabase types are therefore required for the creation of a social media platform. [16]
3.2 Architecture concept
Creating a microservice architecture it is necessary to divide the overall task into sub-
tasks (domain cut). The sub-tasks determine so-called macroservices, which should be
as independent as possible. Due to their high functionality, the macroservices must be
subdivided into further services until the corresponding microservice granularity is
reached. With this in mind, we have developed an architecture concept shown in figure
2.
Fig. 2. The minimum viable prototype macroservice architecture (green) for robot con-
figuration and additional services for the further development of microservices
6
Building component relations: This service is responsible for determining the possi-
ble composition of the individual components. For this, a graph-based database is nec-
essary, in which all components with possible relationships and restraints are listed.
This service is one of the minimum requirements of a robot configurator.
Best-practice solutions: The best solution for a scenario with fixed variables is shown
to the user. For example, a user would like to select the scenario pick and placewith
a range of one meter and a specific gripping component. With the aid of the service
“best-practice solutions”, the most suitable components will be selected.
2D visualization: Icons are used to display the composition of the components to the
user. This is the last service, which is one of the minimum requirements.
3D visualization: This service will complement the tasks of 2D visualization. It visu-
alizes the scenario in 3D using for example WebGL.
Export service: Export service is responsible for exporting data. The data includes bill
of materials (BOM) lists in pdf or videos and images exported by the 3D visualization.
Robot simulation: With robot simulation, a path planning for the robots can be created.
This task also consists of further services like the manipulation of 3D objects, the cre-
ation of path locations and other applications.
Component provider: Service to provide a component’s information. The information
is described by using e.g. the AutomationML format. It may be used for storage and
exchange of robot planning data.
Sub-components: This service is mainly a database, which shows other possible com-
ponents to the selected components.
One-Stop-Shop: The one-stop-shop lists all the data about the components.
User-data: A dedicated service for managing the data of the users.
Rights management: Every user has specific rights, which control what content can
be seen, read or altered by him. These rights are managed by this service.
Payment system: High security is required for the payment. Therefore, the payment
system is usually outsourced to specialized companies. To ensure that the external
workers cannot change the source code, a service is also suitable here.
7
4 Robot configuration process based on microservices
One possible configuration process shown in figure 3 starts with the scenario query for
a required robot solution. This is one way to reduce the solution space and the com-
plexity. The various robot solutions with the greatest potential are presented in primary
categories, which are subdivided into further subcategories. By now, the user can select
between the primary categories “pick and place”, “packaging” and “palletizing” as well
as “quality control”.
The solution space pick and placeis divided into the subcategories of component
placement and assembly. After the corresponding category has been selected, the con-
figuration process is started. A default scenario based on best-practice queries is pre-
sented to the user and can be defined in detail by means of partial configurators. If, for
example, the user selects the subcategory of machine feeding, first basic input parame-
ters are defined with the basic requests for the component weight, the necessary range
(distance), the positional accuracy, the height of the initial position, or the insertion
position. In addition, layout and CAD data (component, machinery, devices, etc.) make
it possible to further define the initial setup. Based on these inquiries concerning the
required concept of the application, first parts (robots, end effectors) of the robot overall
system are preconfigured. The next step, in the case of machine feeding, consists of the
partial configuration of the machine cell, which is specified by further inquiries regard-
ing the base area and the protective device. Further sub-configurations to be carried out
by the user (parts delivery, separation) ultimately lead to a specified basic solution of
the robot system and complete the basic configuration process.
Fig. 3. The configuration process guides the user iteratively trough individual robot
components and is implemented in a simple, structured and method-based approach.
8
The basic configurator offers a simple and fast overview of the most suitable automa-
tion solutions for the specific applications to the user. In addition, individual precon-
figured automation modules, such as a part feed, can be reused based on standard small
charge carriers. The modular design provides an intuitive user experience, which makes
robot solutions much easier to plan and to order with reduced effort. The preselection
of a potential solution generated in the configuration process can be shared with col-
leagues and system integrators simply via a web link, which promotes an internal and
external company collaboration.
5 Conclusion and Future Work
We presented an approach for an architecture concept and a domain cut to build up a
modular engineering and configuration platform for robotic automation systems. In the
space of the research project ROBOTOP we have to define the architecture and to struc-
ture the application as a set of loosely coupled services. It has the benefit to get devel-
opment easier understood, to make developers more productive, to start application
faster and speed up the developments.
The configuration of system instances requires standardizable and modularizable ro-
bot components. An architecture based on microservices offers a service-oriented ap-
proach that enables a modular design of task-specific services. However, microservices
go several steps further along with virtualized platforms and containers to create a hy-
brid service integration that replaces monolithic, single code base applications. The ar-
chitecture concept described in this paper was developed in a project-internal workshop
and defines the submodules required for a flexible, modular and scalable configuration
platform. The configuration of robot systems is based on the central best-practice ser-
vice, which ensures an accelerated design, reduced complexity and modular re-usabil-
ity. Future work will focus on the elaboration of the operating concept based on scien-
tific and psychological recommendations. The operating concept is intended to be a
structured approach to divide a complex configuration process into various, inter-
changeable modules. It is necessary to specify which processes can run serial and which
in parallel. In addition, methods for the user-specific, skill-based support of the config-
uration process will be developed.
6 Acknowledgments
The research and development project ROBOTOP is funded by the Federal Ministry of
Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). It is part of the technology program “PAICE
Digitale Technologien für die Wirtschaft” and is guided by the DLR Project Manage-
ment Agency “Information Technologies / Eelectromobility”, Cologne.
9
References
1. Jackson, J.: Microsoft Robotics Studio: A Technical Introduction. In: IEEE Robotics Auto-
mation Magazine (2007).
2. Siemens, “Process Simulate for Robotics and Automation”, URL: https://www.plm.automa-
tion.siemens.com, last visited: 07.09.2017.
3. LogixSim, “RoboLogix”, URL: https://www.logixsim.com/robologix.php, last visited:
07.09.2017.
4. Michel, O.: Webots: Professional Mobile Robot Simulation. In: International Journal of Ad-
vanced Robotic Systems, vol. 1, num. 1 (2004).
5. Bartelt, M., Kuhlenkötter, B. (Hg.): conexing Abschlussbericht. Werkzeug zur inter-
disziplinären Planung und produktbezogenen virtuellen Optimierung von automatisierten
Produktionssystemen. In: Bochumer Universitätsverlag Westdeutscher Universitätsverlag
(Maschinenbau, 10). DOI 10.12906/9783899667653 (2016)
6. Ferreira, P., Reyes V., Mestre, J.: A Web-Based Integration Procedure for the Development
of Reconfigurable Robotic Work-Cells. In: International Journal of Advanced Robotic Sys-
tems, vol. 10, num. 295, pp. 1-9 (2013).
7. Chandrasegaran, S., Ramani, K., Siriam, R., Horvath, I., Bernard, A., Harik, R., Gao, W.:
The evolution, challenges, and future of knowledge representation in product design sys-
tems. In: Computer Aided Design, vol. 45, pp. 204-228 (2013).
8. igus, “Robotik-Baukasten robolink”, URL: http://www.igus.de/robolink/roboter, las visited:
08.09.2017.
9. Eynard, B., Lienard, S., Charles, S., Odinot, A.: Web-based Collaborative Engineering Sup-
port System: Applications in Mechanical Design and Structural Analysis. In: Concurrent
Engineering: Research and Applications, vol. 13, num. 2, pp. 145-153 (2005).
10. Michl, M., Fischer, C., Merhof, J., Franke, J.: Comprehensive Support of Technical Diag-
nosis by Means of Web Technologies. Proceeding of the 7th DET, pp. 73-82 (2011).
11. Fischer, C., Bönig, J., Franke, J., Lusic, M., Hornfeck, R.: Worker information system to
support during complex and exhausting assembly of high-voltage harness. In: 5th Interna-
tional Electric Drives Production Conference: Proceedings. Piscataway, NY: IEEE, pp. 212-
128 (2015).
12. Fischer, C., Lusic, M., Bönig, J., Hornfeck, R., Franke, J.: Webbasierte Werkerinformati-
onssysteme: Datenaufbereitung und -darstellung für die Werkerführung im Global Cross
Enterprise Engineering. In: wt Werkstatttechnik online, vol. 104, num. 9, pp. 581-585
(2014).
13. Kohl, J., Fleischmann, H., Franke, J.: Intelligent energy profiling for decentralized fault di-
agnosis of automated production systems. In: Green Factory Bavaria Colloquium (2015).
14. Wolff, E.: Microservices. Grundlagen flexibler Softwarearchitekturen. 1., korrigierter Nach-
druck. Heidelberg: dpunkt.verlag (2016).
15. Scholl, B., Swanson, T., Fernandez, D.: Microservices with Docker on Microsoft Azure.
Boston: Addison-Wesley (Addison-Wesley Microsoft technology series) (2016).
16. Bernhardt, S.: Microservices und SOA: Zwei Architektur Ansätze im Vergleich. In:
DOAG/SOUG News (04) (2015)
17. Newman, S.: Microservices. Konzeption und Design. Frechen: mitp. (2015)
18. Torre, C., Singh, D. K., Turecek, V.: Microsoft Azure Azure Service Fabric and the Mi-
croservices Architecture, URL: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/maga-
zine/mt595752.aspx, last visited: 05.10.2017
... For this reason, expert knowledge and Best Practice (BP) examples, regarding reasonable realizable physical functions and interaction with the product as well as first basic path planning for position and range evaluation of RAS, are necessary. Thereby, BP [14,21] are modularized and digitalized, successfully implemented RAS. ...
... Mostly, configurators are used for the individualization of predefined products such as clothes or automobiles [2] rather than new and dynamic engineering tasks. Therefore, we introduced the idea of a real knowledge-based engineering configurator (KBEC) [24], with which new RAS can be created based on BP [21] as well as customized and validated through constraints [15]. KBEC based on constraints [5,7] provide advantages in transferability, scalability, and maintainability. ...
... ROBOTOP is based on the scalable and flexible idea of a microservice architecture, firstly introduced in 2006 through amazon [29]. In doing so, the ROBOTOP functions are divided into several independent microservices (MS), such as BP selection, configuration, simulation, AML-data-exchange [1,14] and spec-sheet generator [21]. The MS can communicate via standardized interfaces. ...
Article
Full-text available
Automation solutions in production represent a sensible and long-term cost-effective alternative to manual work, especially for physically strenuous or dangerous activities. However, especially for small companies, automation solutions are associated with a considerable initial complexity and a high effort in planning and implementation. The ROBOTOP project, a consortium of industrial companies and research institutes has therefore developed a flexible web platform for the simplified, modular planning and configuration of robot-based automation solutions for frequent tasks. In this paper, an overview of the project’s scientific findings and the resulting platform is given. Therefore, challenges due to the scope of knowledge-based engineering configurators like the acquisition of necessary data, its description, and the graphical representation are outlined. Insights are given into the platform’s functions and its technical separation into different Microservices such as Best Practice selection, configuration, simulation, AML-data-exchange and spec-sheet generator with the focus on the configuration. Finally, the user experience and potentials are highlighted.
... In order to make classic bottom-up engineering more efficient, the top-down approach of the knowledge-based engineering configuration (EC), also known as KBEC, offers a solution, which is divided into two general phases [1,17]. ...
... The cycle time is needed, for example, for the profitability calculation. [1,17] The MS export converts the configured solution into the necessary output or exchange formats. For engineering, AML can be used as a data exchange format between engineering tools. ...
... This enables the display and configuration of the RAS via VR or AR devices. Two examples of the implementation of VR and AR user interfaces are presented within [1, 17,26,29]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Robot-centric automation solutions (RAS) promise more efficiency and quality in production as well as more economic stability and security through local production, especially in the times of COVID-19. Nevertheless, due to their high complexity and costs, RAS are only used to a limited extent by small and medium-sized manufacturing companies. As a rule, the high costs of RAS arise from individual engineering, which takes up to 70 percent of the acquisition costs. For this reason, it is necessary to optimise the engineering of RAS. Among other things, better software and less costly top-down engineering methods are needed for this kind of enhancement. Pure optimisation via more advanced simulation tools is not sufficient. Configurators in particular offer the possibility of automatically arranging individual solutions from existing experience. Up to now, however, configurators have been used primarily for the individualisation of products, such as automobiles or clothing, on the basis of the variants predefined by the manufacturer, and less for the engineering of automation solutions. To make top-down configuration and simulation functions easily available to small medium enterprises, a web platform is a convenient solution. Due to the high complexity within the engineering domain, it is reasonable to build this kind of web platform with different services from specialised companies, e.g. by using microservices (MS). Conceivable roles could be as following. The web platform operator (WPO) offers an industry-specific, turnkey complete web platform. The WPO combines, integrates and orchestrates various modules and MS like configuration, simulation, data exchange and other. The MS can be provided by MS providers. In particular, since data interoperability and exchange are very important for engineering, an AutomationML (AML) MS is used to implement both. AML particularly supports the generic exchange of data based on industrial standards. To provide a general solution, a MS and AML-based web platform reference architecture was developed. These concepts and MS architecture are validated via a prototypical implementation and utilisation of the web platform within the scope of the ROBOTOP research project. Thus, the potential for increasing efficiency in engineering for RAS could be demonstrated using this top-down approach.
... Nevertheless, RAS are usually individually engineered and therefore cost intensive, mostly too costly for small enterprises. [1][2][3] Thus, the planning and implementation of RAS still involves considerable initial complexity and effort. Suitable tools, in particular for concept planning, are still lacking. ...
... Therefore, the classical planning process for RAS is analysed and divided into subsequent stations. Furthermore, we identify potentials of streamlining the planning process through the use of KC, resulting in a second proposed process, the Best Practice based planning, developed within the research project ROBOTOP [2,3,[26][27][28][29]. To allow for an intuitive side-byside comparison, the individual scenes from both planning approaches up to the virtual robot teach-in are combined and implemented in order of execution in a virtual tour. ...
... Station seven: The first step of the proposed concept of planning is Best Practice based planning, first presented by SCHÄFFER et al [2,28]. In this concept, essential steps of planning are eliminated and replaced by a selection of one existing Best Practice solution to reduce complexity (Fig. 8). ...
Article
Full-text available
The term Virtual Reality (VR), is very well known in the consumer goods and entertainment sector. The visual presentation of the VR environment is typically achieved via stereoscopic head-mounted displays (HMD), and the interaction via a 3D position detection of HMD and additional input devices such as controllers for active user input. While the variety of applications in the entertainment industry is constantly growing and the technological possibilities become more extensive, this trend has marginally established itself in the industry. Even though powerful and affordable VR hardware is available, VR applications are often associated more with gaming than professional industrial applications. In addition, only few interaction mechanisms such as 3D viewing, moving, teleporting and rarely direct interaction capabilities are used in the most industrial VR solutions. The reason for this is often a lack of understanding and structure of use cases and the added value that VR applications and interactions create for companies and their customers. This unnecessarily limits the applicability of new VR applications for the industry. For a better structuring of VR use cases and required 3D objects for targeted user interaction, we introduce seven Levels of Detail. Along these, one VR use case setup is created, to provide examples for classical concept planning and a new knowledge-based process based on engineering Best Practices. For each, we derive adequate prototypical implemented demonstrator stations and necessary interaction mechanisms for VR development. To highlight further VR possibilities, we extend the examples by adding a second use case setup for VR planning and virtual commissioning of industrial human-robot collaboration solutions based on body and hand tracking. Hence, the contribution provides a structured compilation of potential and useful industrial VR planning use case setups and for these relevant interaction mechanisms in combination with concretely implemented examples.
... In addition to high costs, it is hardly possible for inexperienced users to use this type of software intuitively due to its complexity and large number of options and functions. In practice, setting up a robotic system is therefore often characterized by numerous costly iteration steps with the help of experienced engineering contractors and system integrators, making it hardly affordable for small and medium-sized companies [5]. ...
... Powerful browser application are increasingly based on a back-end MS architecture with one front-end monolith (see Fig. 1 right and Fig. 2-a). [27,28] Further explanation and differentiation of the terms MS, monolithic and service-oriented architecture can be found in [5,29]. ...
... engineering tools use the same MS (see Fig. 3). Fig. 3. MS-based software architecture being helpful to further advance the specialization in software development in accordance with [5,31] Due to the high number of uses, MS providers can be profitable at low pricing. By selecting and orchestrating different MS, domains can quickly and efficiently create specific, high quality solutions. ...
Article
Full-text available
Microservice (MS) architectures, especially in combination with micro front ends, are a modern, scalable and sustainable approach to software development. The modular development of individual components and the possibility of a simple, collaborative and iterative development represent a strategic advantage for companies. In addition, the MS approach allows the consistent use of current technologies, whereby new software functionalities can constantly be included. In this paper, the potentials of MS for engineering tools are shown using the example of a web-based configurator for robot-based automation solutions. On the one hand, the implemented prototype illustrates a possible MS architecture pattern and, on the other hand, clarifies how new functionalities such as the collaborative multi-user configuration or different role-based configuration sessions are enabled by such a concept. Using the example of the web-based configuration platform, it is finally shown how a MS architecture contributes to better development and easier deployment of engineering software solutions based on the divide and conquer principle.
... Those requirements demand a highly flexible and scalable ITarchitecture. Nevertheless, common systems are still based on monolithic or service-oriented architectures, complicating its adaptability [1][2][3]. Therefore, this paper shows a solution to flexibly combine business processes with IT-infrastructure, based on the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard [4] and introduces a reference architecture as well as a six-step method for its user-centered and agile development. ...
... (Fig. 2) [7]. (1)(2)(3)(4)(5) according to [6,7] Intuitively, one would start from the business process and refine it top-down until reaching the system level and directly calling the back-end systems from the BPMN models. This approach reveals several disadvantages: The models become hardly understandable for non-BPMN-experts, are hard to maintain, adjust, and operate and even worse, get an increasingly monolithic structure. ...
Article
Full-text available
One of the major trends in the 21st century is the trend towards digital transformation within Industry 4.0. In order to adapt to high volatile market conditions, especially in the context of COVID-19, companies do not only have to transfer their knowledge into digital systems. Furthermore, they have to be able to tailor their business processes rapidly to changing customer’s needs. The implementation of efficient and transparent processes is thereby known as the process of digital transformation and requires its underlying software-architecture to be highly flexible and scalable. Especially a web-based platform represents a highly user-centered application for multi-user purposes and can quickly adapt to its customer needs. While e-commerce and video-streaming platforms, like eBay or Netflix, often already provide a highly flexible, microservice-based architecture, common tools and platforms within the engineering-domain are usually still based on rather monolithic or service-oriented architectures (SOA). Therefore, an adaption to changing market conditions and the integration of proprietary tools is often technically demanding and economically not feasible, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). In this context, the so-called Process-Driven-Approach (PDA) offers a sustainable and tool-neutral blue-print for a system’s architecture strictly following the separations-of-concerns principle and allowing a user-centered layout. The PDA enables the integration of business processes and tools within an orchestrating framework, provided by a process engine. While the PDA within the engineering domain has been presented in a preceding paper, this paper supposes a reference architecture and agile development method for engineering-platforms via the PDA based on the BPMN-standard and process engines. These concepts are validated by a prototypical implementation of a platform-demonstrator for tool-supported planning of robot-based automation solutions.
... As RAS are mostly individually engineered, costs are significant and mostly unaffordable for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). [1,2] Knowledge-based configurators (KBC), often regarded as a subgroup of expert systems [3], offer a technology to automate knowledge work such as the aforementioned engineering of automation solutions [4]. So far, configurators are mostly used for the customization of products such as automobiles or clothes [5] rather than the engineering of automation solutions. ...
... In addition, a first overview table of available knowledge sources for further KA is composed in Table 2. In doing so, constraint knowledge re-use across different independent configurators or even configuration microservices [2,37,38] is conceivable. ...
Article
Full-text available
The high complexity of today’s automation solutions often raises integration costs to an uneconomic level, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Analyzing the total costs of automation solutions, engineering efforts account for the largest share. However, potentials for time and cost savings as well as quality improvements by reusing existing engineering knowledge are usually not exploited in industrial practice. In this context, knowledge-based configurators are the most popular expert systems and present an opportunity to automate the creation of customer-specific automation solutions. Especially for efficient knowledge reuse, constraint-based configurators seem suitable. However, existing methods for developing configurators focus on product configurators rather than on knowledge-based engineering configurators (KBEC). In addition, the necessary knowledge acquisition (KA) is still one of the major challenges in developing KBECs. Open fields of action include the definition of the optimal functional scope as well as the identification, prioritization, and selection of suitable knowledge sources. Another prerequisite represents the transparency of existing engineering processes and interests of all affected stakeholders. Therefore, this paper introduces a six-step approach enabling the development of use-oriented KBECs with the minimum required functional scope to reduce efforts for KA and thus overall development costs. Finally, the strategic approach is validated using the example of a KBEC for the concept planning of robot-based automation solutions.
... Based on BPMN 2.0, processes can be executed directly in a process engine [8]. Especially in the engineering of machines and plants, a structured orchestration of different engineering tools or custom microservices is necessary but not yet state of the art [9][10][11]. Therefore, the PDA, originating from business informatics, is introduced into the engineering domain and extended accordingly. ...
Article
Full-text available
Digitization within the framework of Industry 4.0 is considered the biggest and fastest driver of change in history of manufacturing industry. While the size of a company is becoming less essential, the ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and new technologies is more important than ever. This trend particularly applies to the companies’ software landscapes, where individual sub-processes and services must be orchestrated, seamlessly integrated, and iteratively renewed according to the ever-increasing user requirements. However, inflexible, closed monolithic software applications as well as self-programmed stand-alone tools that are difficult to integrate are still predominant in the engineering domain. A complete reimplementation of existing, proprietary engineering tools and their integration into monolithic applications of large software providers is often not economically feasible, especially for small and medium-sized machinery and plant manufacturers. In this context, the so-called Process-Driven Approach (PDA) offers a sustainable and tool-neutral opportunity for process and tool orchestration, enabling an easy integration of individual software applications by consistent utilization of the separation of concerns principle. The PDA, originating from business informatics, is mainly based on the standardized and machine-executable visual modeling language Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). Using the semantic enhancements found in version 2.0, BPMN is not just used to model the business processes but also to model and execute the integration processes between different systems. After the PDA has already been successfully applied to large-scale projects in business informatics, it is now being transferred to the engineering domain. As shown in this paper, PDA allows to orchestrate the different processes in engineering and to integrate the underlying software tools, such as e-mail or spreadsheet applications, engineering tools, or custom microservices, using standardized interfaces like REST API. In doing so, engineering processes can be made more transparent, monitored, and optimized by means of appropriate key figures. The concept is validated by a prototypical implementation of a minimum functional PDA architecture for the engineering domain.
Article
Full-text available
Robot-centric automation solutions (RAS) promise greater efficiency and consistent quality in production, relieving workers of physically demanding and dangerous tasks, especially in the times of COVID-19. Nevertheless, due to their relatively high complexity and implementation costs, RAS are only used to a limited extent by small and medium-sized manufacturing companies. As a rule, the high costs of RAS arise from custom engineering efforts, which take up to 70 percent of the acquisition costs. For this reason, it is necessary to optimise the engineering of RAS. However, software tools such as configurators have been used primarily for the individualisation of products, such as automobiles or clothing, based on variants predefined by the manufacturer, and less for the engineering of automation solutions. The development of knowledge-based systems, in particular knowledge-based engineering configurators (EC), is usually performed by few proficient experts with high development effort. One of the primary challenges in the knowledge acquisition is that several experts possess partial aspects of knowledge in an inhomogeneous, implicit form. Furthermore, there is a lack of efficient development methods for EC. By reusing knowledge elements from previous development projects, a sustainable increase in efficiency is possible. In order to enable an efficient development process of EC, we introduce a structuring model consisting of four knowledge domains (KD): knowledge about specific business cases (KD1), Best Practices as case-specific solution knowledge (KD2), logical expert knowledge (KD3) as well as semantically consistent data models for interoperability of different IT systems (KD4). As the four KD are independent, their development can be agilely divided among several teams or companies. Finally, the agile development approach is validated individually for each KD as well as comprehensively within the scope of the ROBOTOP platform for planning RAS.
Book
Full-text available
Der Markt für roboterzentrierte Automatisierungslösungen (RA) ist ein globaler Wachstumsmarkt. Aufgrund der hohen Kosten und Komplexität von RA bleiben häufig kleine und mittlere Unternehmen (KMU) hinter diesem Trend zurück. Gegenstand und Zielstellung der Promotion ist die Schaffung von effizienten sowie skalierbaren Engineering-Konzepten und -Lösungen für die Planung von RA auf Basis von Webtechnologien. Hierfür wurden das Konzept des Engineering-Konfigurators, eine microservicebasierte Webplattform-Referenzarchitektur sowie eine für Engineering-Konfiguratoren benötigte Entwicklungsmethode basierend auf drei Teilmethoden (W1-W3) eingeführt. Über nutzerzentrierte Entwicklungsansätze, eine modulare Architektur für RA sowie Ansätze aus der wissensbasierten Konfiguration (Teilbereich aus der künstlichen Intelligenz (KI)) werden der Vertrieb, die Planung und das Engineering von RA einem breiteren Publikum zugänglich gemacht. Validiert wurden die Konzepte und Methoden im Rahmen der Webplattform ROBOTOP sowie anhand diverser 3D-Web-, AR (Augmented Reality)- und VR (Virtual Reality)-Mehrbenutzer-Demonstratoren. Die Konzepte und Methoden befähigen somit auch eine effiziente Digitalisierung bzw. Prozessautomatisierung des Engineerings von RA durch die eingeführten, strukturierenden Methoden zur Wissenserfassung, -modellierung sowie -implementierung und unterstützen dabei die Vision des digitalen Zwillings im Kontext von Industrie 4.0.
Article
Full-text available
Concepts related to the development of reconfigurable manufacturing systems (RMS) and methodologies to provide the best practices in the processing industry and factory automation, such as system integration and web-based technology, are major issues in designing next-generation manufacturing systems (NGMS). Adaptable and integrable devices are crucial for the success of NGMS. In robotic cells the integration of manufacturing components is essential to accelerate system adaptability. Sensors, control architectures and communication technologies have contributed to achieving further agility in reconfigurable factories. In this work a web-based robotic cell integration procedure is proposed to aid the identification of reconfigurable issues and requirements. This methodology is applied to an industrial robot manipulator to enhance system flexibility towards the development of a reconfigurable robotic platform.
Article
Full-text available
Cyberbotics Ltd. develops WebotsTM, a mobile robotics simulation software that provides you with a rapid prototyping environment for modelling, programming and simulating mobile robots. The provided robot libraries enable you to transfer your control programs to several commercially available real mobile robots. WebotsTM lets you define and modify a complete mobile robotics setup, even several different robots sharing the same environment. For each object, you can define a number of properties, such as shape, color, texture, mass, friction, etc. You can equip each robot with a large number of available sensors and actuators. You can program these robots using your favorite development environment, simulate them and optionally transfer the resulting programs onto your real robots. WebotsTM has been developed in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, thoroughly tested, well documented and continuously maintained for over 7 years. It is now the main commercial product available from Cyberbotics Ltd.
Article
The proliferation of energy management systems leads to new potentials of data acquisition that can deliver improved machine information through intelligent linking. In addition to energy controlling, the newly gotten database creates further use cases for advanced purposes. This paper presents an exemplary application of a diagnostic scenario for industrial robots. For this objective, data fusion of energy data and operating logs is necessary to obtain detailed knowledge of the behavior of a production system. Hereby, an online measurement system will be described, which helps to uncover inefficiencies in production systems.
Conference Paper
There are a lot of different kinds of electric drives and each category has a different installation position within a vehicle. A huge number of variants pose a challenge for manual assembly as the varying constellations of high-voltage (HV) cables require individual assembly steps. A worker needs information both about a vehicle and about HV components with their properties. We obtained good results for this on base of a worker information system (WIS). We can visualize parts assembly using three-dimensional (3-D) objects. The results of hazard analysis are shown in text format. But a WIS lacks in representing the physical behavior of parts within assembly. Especially HV cables move in an undetermined way when they are handled. We have an approach to simulate HV cables within assembly simulation. The material properties of HV cables during distortion are calculated in a finite element analysis (FEA). These parameters flow into an assembly simulation containing flexible parts like HV cables and a digital human model. The results of simulation runs can not only be used for assembly planning but also for worker guidance. We present an approach how to qualify simulation results for import to a WIS. In addition, possible application scenarios for such a WIS are explained.
Article
Die Globalisierung wirkt sich auf Unternehmen nicht nur im Bereich der Verarbeitung und des Transports materieller Güter aus, sondern auch auf die assoziierten Datenflüsse. Die weltweit verteilte Erstellung und Bearbeitung von Daten stellt erhöhte Anforderungen an die Zusammenführung und lokale Nutzung. Insbesondere Produktentwicklungsdaten sollen schnell, effizient und zielgerichtet für die Produktionsplanung und –ausführung bereitgestellt werden. In diesem Artikel wird ein Ansatz für die manuelle Montage im Bereich der Elektromobilität vorgestellt.
Article
Microsoft robotics studio (MSRS) was publicly released in December 2006 with the explicit goal of providing an industry software standard for robot control. To become a viable standard, several technical challenges needed to be solved. In this article, we examine the composition of MSRS, looking generally at its architecture and specifically at its solutions for concurrency, distribution, abstraction, simulation, and programmer interaction. We also examine briefly the emerging industry and academic adoption of the robotics studio.
Process Simulate for Robotics and Automation
  • Siemens
Siemens, "Process Simulate for Robotics and Automation", URL: https://www.plm.automation.siemens.com, last visited: 07.09.2017.
Hg.): conexing Abschlussbericht. Werkzeug zur interdisziplinären Planung und produktbezogenen virtuellen Optimierung von automatisierten Produktionssystemen
  • M Bartelt
  • B Kuhlenkötter
Bartelt, M., Kuhlenkötter, B. (Hg.): conexing Abschlussbericht. Werkzeug zur interdisziplinären Planung und produktbezogenen virtuellen Optimierung von automatisierten Produktionssystemen. In: Bochumer Universitätsverlag Westdeutscher Universitätsverlag (Maschinenbau, 10). DOI 10.12906/9783899667653 (2016)
The evolution, challenges, and future of knowledge representation in product design systems
  • S Chandrasegaran
  • K Ramani
  • R Siriam
  • I Horvath
  • A Bernard
  • R Harik
  • W Gao
Chandrasegaran, S., Ramani, K., Siriam, R., Horvath, I., Bernard, A., Harik, R., Gao, W.: The evolution, challenges, and future of knowledge representation in product design systems. In: Computer Aided Design, vol. 45, pp. 204-228 (2013).
Comprehensive Support of Technical Diagnosis by Means of Web Technologies. Proceeding of the 7th DET
  • M Michl
  • C Fischer
  • J Merhof
  • J Franke
Michl, M., Fischer, C., Merhof, J., Franke, J.: Comprehensive Support of Technical Diagnosis by Means of Web Technologies. Proceeding of the 7th DET, pp. 73-82 (2011).