Virtual Robot Design and Commissioning

Aug. 28, 2023
Schunk and Ready Robotics announce partnership around use of Nvidia’s Omniverse platform to support specification, deployment and re-deployment of automated systems.

Though it’s becoming apparent that the industrial metaverse will likely not emerge for use as an always-on immersive environment in which operators, technicians and engineers will perform their jobs, it doesn’t mean that metaverse-related technologies are disappearing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

A recent partnership developed between Schunk, a supplier of robot end effector technologies, and Ready Robotics, a robot control platform and cell design provider, around the use of Nvidia’s Omniverse simulation platform is a good example of how practical industrial metaverse type technologies are developing. The goal of this partnership is to develop the Automation Explorer simulation tool.

According to Schunk, “as automation technology advances, simulation technology must progress further to support specification, deployment and re-deployment of automated systems. Automation Explorer will enable users to virtually experience and interact with Schunk automation technology in an immersive and detailed, physics-based simulation tool.”

Automation Explorer will combine Nvidia’s Isaac Sim, Ready Robotics’ ForgeOS and Schunk’s automation technologies. Isaac Sim, which is built on Nvidia’s Omniverse, is a simulation platform used to develop, test and deploy AI-based robotics applications that closely emulate real-world conditions.

Schunk and Ready Robotics say Automation Explorer will “take the term ‘digital twin’ to the next level with photo-realistic imaging of manufacturing environments, advanced robot control software and…automation technology coming together in one unique experience.”

Simulations in Automation Explorer will be based on the physics of end effector technical product data to deliver more accurate visualization and optimization before a robot is placed on the production floor.

Kel Guerin, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Ready Robotics says, “By connecting ForgeOS and Nvidia Isaac Sim, customers will be able to control any robotic hardware and Schunk peripherals in simulations and the real world—in exactly the same way.”

Read about Siemens work with Nvidia on the industrial metaverse.

Target application: robotic gripping

The companies point out that Automation Explorer is being designed for anyone using a robot. “The target is mainly mechanical gripping—demonstrating the opening and closing on workpieces of varying sizes and weights—and then simulating the task that needs to be automated,” says Aaron Royster, product and co-lab manager at Shunck.

Guerin recognizes that numerous simulation programs exist today, but he says most of them are “spatial in nature” designed more for equipment sizing and locating. With automated systems, however, many implementation steps are required on the manufacturing floor.

This is where the combination of Ready Robotic's ForgeOS, which enables the programming of any robot brand in one language, with real-world simulation software to allow more qualification and deployment steps to “be done in simulation or virtually regardless of what equipment is being used or planned for,” he says. “Combining robots, gripping solutions, sensor systems, vision and more will allow things like risk assessments to be completed in simulation rather than once equipment is installed and operational. Changes can be made earlier in the process, making the decision to automate easier than in the past.”

Expected availability

In terms of Automation Explorer’s availability, Royster says work has already started and the automated equipment that “we will use to validate the performance of the simulation against real world data is ready. We expect a software of this caliber and accuracy to take time before it is ready for web-based utilization by the masses, but we are working towards that as soon as possible.”

He notes that the companies’ plan for the software is for it to be web-based so that any PC with a modern web browser meeting the system minimum requirements will be able to run the simulations.

“Automation Explorer will bring confidence to both new and experienced users of automation that their process is being optimized to its full potential. Whether investigating automation possibilities for the first time, or re-deploying automation equipment for a new task, Automation Explorer brings a major opportunity for understanding automation process potential while also digitalizing and simplifying deployment tasks," said Milton Guerry, president of Schunk USA.

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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