TwinTrack Probe From RoboDK Designed to Simplify Robot Programming by Demonstration

RoboDK has released the design and assembly instructions to make path planning more accessible.


TwinTrack Probe is intended for robotics applications requiring a moderate degree of accuracy, such as painting.
TwinTrack Probe from RoboDK combines 3D printing, VR technology, and software to make it easier for manufacturers to program robots for complex paths.

For robotics adoption to spread to new applications, the systems must become easier to program. Some developers and suppliers are working to move away from requiring users to code every point in a trajectory, manually jog a robot into position, or model parts in CAD software. RoboDK today announced that it has released the design and assembly instructions of its TwinTrack Probe.

“Traditional methods to teach robots by demonstration require very expensive metrology systems, dedicated support, and training,” said Olivier Allard, a software developer at RoboDK, in a statement. “The price tag of this hardware can be over $100,000, 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,” he said in a statement.

In 2015, Albert Nubiola founded RoboDK, a spin-off of the Control and Robotics (CoRo) Laboratory at ETS University in Montreal. The company said it has designed its software to bring robotics simulation and programming capabilities to companies of all sizes and to coders and non-coders alike.

RoboDK said it creates systems that remove the need for costly, vendor-restrictive hardware. The company currently supports more than 900 robots from over 70 manufacturers. They include ABB, FANUC, KUKA, Yaskawa Motoman, Stäubli, Omron, and Universal Robots.

Easy curve generation for streamlined programming

While robots have long promised to increase production efficiency, as they become more widely available, the programming step has become a bottleneck, asserted RoboDK. The company claimed that its software is already helping manufacturers 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,” RoboDK said.

Users can now accurately capture any point or curve in the robot's workspace simply by touching it with the new probe, it explained. 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,” said the company. “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.”

TwinTrack curve generation

TwinTrack is desigend to enable robots to follow complex curves and trajectories. Source: RoboDK

TwinTrack Probe aims for accessibility

TwinTrack Probe allows users to program their robots simply by moving the probe by hand and recording complex paths with an off-the-shelf tracker and a simple 3D-printed tool. This allows the robot to mimic operator skills, explained RoboDK.

The TwinTrack Probe takes advantage of new technology created for virtual reality (VR) systems, and the probe itself can be created with any 3D printer.

TwinTrack Probe 3D printed

The TwinTrack Probe itself can be 3D-printed. Source; RoboDK

The company said it made the probe's design and assembly instructions publicly available so it can be customized to better mimic human skills. The device includes two buttons to provide users better control over the teaching process.

The company said the system is integrated with its software, so recorded paths are immediately available for robot simulation and programming. Once the setup is complete, a user can see the simulated probe moving in real time in the RoboDK station.

“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,” said Nubiola, CEO of RoboDK.

RoboDK weighs accuracy versus price

The main challenge with industrial-grade measurement systems is their restrictive price tag. While their accuracy can be up to 0.1 mm (0.003 in.), such systems typically require extensive knowledge and experience only available from specific vendors.

“This probe is suitable for applications that don’t require accuracy,” Nubiola said in reference to the TwinTrack. It can achieve an accuracy of 5 mm (0.19 in.), which the company is suitable for many robotic tasks.

The new system can be built with less than €2,000 ($2,144 U.S.), including the necessary hardware from HTC and Valve. RoboDK said it wants to bring the benefits of affordable measurement technology to its customers, allowing them to customize the hardware for each manufacturing application.

“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,” claimed RoboDK.

Example applications

TwinTrack Probe is suitable for multiple applications, said RoboDK. Users can use the tool to program trajectories in real environments, compensating 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,” Allard said. “This is useful for applications like painting or dispensing. You can also quickly make a pick-and-place application or create a part reference frame that fits the real part position.”

RoboDK said its team hopes to see a variety of innovative use cases and success stories from its user base. It is also working to make the system even easier to adopt by creating step-by-step setup guides for users looking to construct their own probes.

The company said these initiatives reflect its “commitment to empowering users with valuable resources and fostering a culture of innovation and knowledge exchange.”

The RoboDK Tutorial App constitutes a comprehensive guide for new users. It provides assistance on license activation, support requests, as well as offering a basic guide, a getting started tutorial and a collision detection tutorial.

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TwinTrack Probe is intended for robotics applications requiring a moderate degree of accuracy, such as painting.

Robot Technologies