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New Low Cost TwinTrack Probe Simplifies Robot Programming

RoboDK has released the design and assembly instructions of the TwinTrack Probe. The cost-effective tool allows users to easily record complex paths in RoboDK robot programming software with an off-the-shelf HTC VIVE tracker and a simple 3D printed tool.

 As the robotics market continues to evolve and more businesses are turning to robotic automation, there is a move away from traditional programming methods. Users don’t want to have to manually move (‘jog’) a robot into position to laboriously program every point, or even model parts in CAD software. They want to record robot trajectories quickly and easily to put the robots into production faster.

With the new TwinTrack Probe users can program their robot simply by moving the probe by hand and recording their complex paths with ease. This allows the robot to mimic the operator skills.

The design and assembly instructions of the probe are made publicly available so it can be customized to better mimic human skills. The device includes 2 buttons to have better control over the teaching process. The combination of an off-the-shelf tracker and a 3D printed, open-source tool makes the solution incredibly accessible for any business that wants to increase their automation efficiency.

Accuracy vs. Price

The main challenge with industrial-grade accurate measurement systems is their restrictive price tag. While accuracy can be up to 0.1 mm, using such systems requires extensive knowledge and experience, only available from specific vendors.

“Traditional methods to teach robots by demonstration require very expensive metrology systems, dedicated support, and training. The price tag of this hardware can be over one hundred thousand dollars, which is far more expensive than a robot itself. We wanted to find a cost-effective solution for applications not requiring accuracy to make it more accessible for everyone” explains Olivier Allard, Software Developer at RoboDK.

The new TwinTrack probe can be built for less than 2000 EUR ($2015), including the measurement hardware required from HTC and Valve. With the new probe, RoboDK aims to bring the benefits of off-the-shelf and affordable measurement technology to its customers, without the restrictive price tag and allowing to customize the hardware for each manufacturing application. The probe itself can be created with any 3D printer.

The TwinTrack Probe can achieve an accuracy of 5mm, which is suitable for many robotic tasks. Examples of excellent applications for the tool include painting, dispensing, and pick and place. By programming the trajectories in the real environment, the tool helps users compensate for any accuracy error between their simulation and the real objects.

“The system allows you to create a complex path on a custom handmade piece without the need of CAD software. This is useful for applications like painting or dispensing. You can also quickly make pick and place application or create a part reference frame that fits the real part position” comments Allard.

Benefits of Public Design Off-The-Shelf Tracker

“We are making the design of our TwinTrack Probe public. This probe is suitable for applications that don’t require accuracy. The assembly instructions and 3D models are available on GrabCAD and Thingiverse, and the probe relies on the same measurement technology used by VR commercial systems, such as one HTC Vive Tracker and two or more base stations by Valve” states RoboDK’s CEO Albert.

The solution integrates perfectly with RoboDK software, meaning that recorded paths are immediately available for robot simulation and programming. Once the setup is complete, users can see the simulated probe moving in real time in their RoboDK station. RoboDK specializes in creating solutions that remove the need for costly, vendor-restrictive hardware. The RoboDK programming software already supports over 900 robot models from over 70 brands, and continues to grow.

More Streamlined Programming Workflow

 Robots have long been a solution to increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes and eliminate production bottlenecks. However, as robots are more widely available and affordable, the programming step itself has become a bottleneck. RoboDK’s programming software already helps its many users to program their robots quickly and easily. TwinTrack takes this efficiency one step further by allowing users to program their robot by simply moving the probe through the workspace.

Users can now accurately capture any point or curve in the robot’s workspace simply by touching it with the new probe. Probing a point will create a target within the RoboDK software that can be used for the user’s programming project. Complex curves and trajectories are also now easier to program than ever. The user can set a custom target density, then move the probe through the air or on the surface of their object. This enables teaching robots remotely, even without the need of a robot or a computer.

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