In general terms, simulation is a process to develop a virtual model capable of emulating the real-world process. Applied in robotics, the simulation process is used to create a virtual model of a robot including the design and programming code.
Most popular robotics simulation software is used in 3D modeling and rendering in a virtual environment that imitate the real environment of the robot. For example, we can simulate a robotic vacuum cleaner in a house. First, we have to build a virtual model of the robot that will be used in a virtual model of a house.
This simulation example includes at least two main 3D virtual models: a 3D virtual model for robot and a model for the rooms. Other objects such as a chair, a bed, a sofa, etc. should be also simulated since the robot should avoid the collision with these objects. A complete simulation project includes the programming code that will be installed in the physical model of the robot.
The first step involved in developing a robot should be the simulation. It allows developers to test the programming code and check the mechanical design according to design proposal request. Since the simulation is not depending on the physical model, the virtual model of the robot could be modified without additional costs.
Based on mathematical formulas, the simulator builds virtual objects with a very close behavior than the final product. This is one of the biggest advantages of simulation.
In 90s, two companies have collaborated to design the first commercial robotic simulation software. These two companies were Deneb Robotics and Tecnomatix Technologies. The software was used to solve complex design and to program robots. Since then, the simulation in robotics has caught the attention. With advanced and a wide range of features, all the simulation software used today have an extensive simulation capability where any user can manage the design and can associate this with the manufacturing process.
Advantages and disadvantages of simulation
Any technology has its advantages and disadvantages. Using simulation tools to design robots is a simple and cheap method to build complex robots, at least virtual robots. In the advantages area I can include a lower cost, while all of the simulation tools offer the possibility to simulate the robot in different scenarios, the programming code can be tested to determine the compatibility with the specifications required, and many more features. Among disadvantages there are the programming problems that cannot cover all the scenarios that may occur in the real world.
- Low costs to produce a robot from scratch;
- Programming code can be tested according to specifications;
- Robot design can be modified without costs;
- Any robot part can be tested;
- In a complex project the robot can be simulated in stages;
- A complete simulation can determine if the robot meet the specifications;
- Almost all simulations software are compatible with a wide range of programming languages;
- Elapsed time between the start of the project and its completion can be shortened;
- The real world may subject the robot at too many more scenarios than a virtual world;
- All simulation programs simulate what are programmed to simulate;
Robotics Simulation Software List
There are many tools that can be used in simulation. From free simulation tools and up to software with the license fee, below you can find a complete list with all simulation software that are used today in robotics.
01. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio
Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio (MRDS) is a free 3D simulation software designed by Microsoft with support for a wide range of sensors and other robotic platforms. The platform is compatible with all Windows OS versions and it could be used with C# Visual Studio 2010 to create new services for RDS. The MRDS offers support to simulate service robots including Kinect technology. In collaboration with Parallax, Microsoft design a robotic platform called Eddie used for creativity, innovation and experimentation.
RoboLogix is a 3D industrial simulation software developed by Logic Design. The platform was designed to be used in real-world emulation for robotics applications with five-axis industrial robot. The program installed on the robot can be developed and tested in a wide range of practical applications. The platform offers support for a wide range of industrial robots including ABB, Fanuc and Kawasaki.
Anykode is a 3D simulation software with support for service robots. The tool can run on Windows and Linux operating systems, and offers a high-level of reality. In the interface are available a wide range of sensors and actuators with real properties to be used in simulation. The platform can be used in educational purpose as well as researchers or by engineers.
Webots is 3D simulation platform developed by Cyberbotics and used in service and industrial simulations. The tool offer support for Windows, Linux and Apple platforms, and is one of the most used simulation software in education or research purposes. Any robot can be modeled, programmed and simulated in C, C++, Java, Python, Matlab, or URBI. The software is compatible with external libraries like OpenCV.
Roboguide is a software developed by Fanuc and fully compatible with Fanuc robots. The platform was designed to be used to simulate in virtual environments the behavior of Fanuc industrial robots. The tool is 3D compatible, while the program can be downloaded in the physical model of the robot.
MotoSim is a 3D industrial simulator dedicated to Motoman industrial robots. The simulator was designed to be used for an industrial optimization process for Motoman robotic arms used in industrial applications.
RobotExpert is a 3D simulation tool designed to simulate in an accurate environment the Siemens industrial robots. Is an intuitive program used to design and modeling workcells as well as robots and mechanisms.
RobotStudio is an industrial simulator tool developed by ABB. The software allows you to develop realistic simulation scenarios for ABB industrial robots as well as real robot programs and configuration files.
RobotSim is a virtual development tool designed by Cogmation Robotics able to run on Microsoft Windows XP. This is a 3D program with support for a suite of software developed by the same company. The RobotSim is a powerful tool to design and build service robots.
SimplyCube was designed to provide realistic 3D simulations for service robots. Using a 3D editor, the user can develop rich 3D scenes to simulate the robot behavior.
Workspace is a 3D compatible software for industrial services simulations developed by WAT Solutions. The platform support programming languages for a wide range of industrial robot manufacturers including ABB, Fanu, Mitsubishi, and many others.
WorkCellSimulator is a 3D industrial simulation software developed by IT Robotics srl based in Italy. The tool can be used in simulation for at least packaging, sorting, or laser cutting applications.
13. AX On Desk
AX On Desk is an industrial simulator software developed by Nachi, a Japanese robotic automation solutions company. It can run on Windows operating systems, while the platform is designed for accurate 3D industrial simulations in a realistic looking work cell.
RoboWorks is a 3D simulation tool developed by Newtonian. The software can be used to simulate in a virtual 3D world the behavior for industrial and service robots. RoboWorks offer support for ‘C/C++’, C/C++ interpreter Ch, VB, VB.NET, LabView, etc.
Blender is a powerful tool to design and simulate service robots in complex environments. The platform is compatible with Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, and Sun. With 3D content support, Blender is one of the most advanced design tools that can be used to simulate in virtual worlds the behavior of the robots.
Gazebo is a multi-robot simulator with support for a wide range of sensors and objects. The software is ROS compatible along with many others Willow Garage robotics platforms.
Simbad is a scientific and educational Java programming language simulator. The software has a real support for artificial intelligence used in service robots. It could be used on Mac OS X , Windows XP and some Linux distributions.
Lpzrobots is a 3D physically realistic robot simulator designed in the labs of Leipzig University. Fully compatible with Linux OS, the tool can be used especially in education and research purposes.
Ezphysics is a 3D compatible simulator with embedded objects support. It is a 3D simulation tool closed to games where robots are brought to life.
Designed by Coppelia Robotics, V-rep is one of the most advanced 3D simulators for industrial robots. The tool offers support for a wide range of programming languages including C/C++, Python, Java, Lua, Matlab or Urbi. It has support to develop algorithms to simulate automation scenarios, the platform is used in education as well by engineers for remote monitoring or safety double-checking.
Easy-Rob is a 3D simulation platform based on the idea to “Robotics Made Easy”.
AristoSim is an intuitive simulator and programming platform used for industrial applications. The platform can be used offline as well as online in a browser.
Morse is a 3D simulator tool used to design and develop service robots. The tool is especially used in education with a focus on simulation of small to large environments, indoor or outdoor.
Eureka is a new platform capable to simulate, analyze, and optimize the milling and turning machines. The program has a graphical interface and a set of APIs compatible with a wide range of programming languages including .NET, VB, C++, Delphi and VBScript.
You can use the simulator starting from 3 axis milling machine and up to mill turning machines without any limit on the number of axes.
Anvel is a simulation software able to simulate and test a wide range of robots and vehicles in stunning 3D environments. The simulation tool allows you to read data from several sensors, track variables, and many more features for a closer simulation to the physical world.
Simple Two Dimentional Robot Simulator or STDR Simulator is a 2-D multi-robot Unix simulator designed for realistic simulations and with a wide range of functionalities. The goal of this simulation software is to make the robotics simulation as simple as possible.
This article was last modified on 14 April 2014.