Just bought an SK6+MRC - What software can I get free/cheap?

  • Gentlemen!

    Can't wait to get my robot home. I've been interested in robots ever since Chrismas of 1977 when I got a Robotron from Radio Shack. Remember those? Anyway, I run a small CNC machine shop and want a robot to load/unload parts. I simply don't have the room for a long bar feeder, so robot loading is the next best thing.

    I'm looking for any and all software I'll be able to use to communicate, configure, program, and even simulate. And yes, I've seen the "free utilities" thread, but I have plenty of editors already.

    First and foremost, I'm looking for communications software so I can write the code on my PC, then transfer to the MRC via ethernet. I have since learned (after writing a cheque to the local Motoman distributor here in Canada) that software isn't free, and isn't something they can give out just because I bought a robot from them. Yeesh. Give me a break.

    What can I say - I'm a small business trying to save a buck here, and can't afford to spend thousands on software packages. I can obviously program from the pendant, but I'd like to do more interesting stuff affix the robot with a spindle/endmill and carve 3D objects on a rotary table (4D milling). Not something possible with a pendant. That requires feeding the program in a stream, or at least uploading copious lines of code over a network.

    Next, is the Motocom DLL. Is the DLL a chargeable item? You'd think Motoman would give away the DLL to encourage developers to write software and interfaces for them. It's an Open Source world now. Why not avail of it?

    Actually, I'm interested in any software that could be used ... affordably. Is it common (or even possible) to buy a USED copy of software and its corresponding USB key? (For example, when a robot or controller explodes explodes and its owner doesn't want to fix it, can they sell their software? Is this unheard of?)

    Anyway, I chose the SK6 and MRC over an older K6 + ERC because of three things:

      • Wanted the performance

      • Wanted a newer design, esp controller

      • MRC was the first series to allow "offline" programming via PC software.

      • The newer style looked better. Non-essential, but important to me.

    Too bad I didn't factor in that everything Motoman sells costs money - no freebies, and their software is expensive.

    Anyway, I'm located in Canada if that makes a difference.

    I'd like to hear how others have arranged to communicate with their robot by means other than the Motoman software suite, or if I'm mistaken about how expensive everything is, to become informed.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for any information you may offer.


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  • Who is your local distributor?

    For everything you want to do I'm surprised they would recommend an MRC. By reading what you want you're looking for some pretty advanced communication with a stone age robot. Not saying it can't be done. I didn't know you could offline program on a MRC (unless you mean a job editor)

  • who recommand you MRC generation..??? only the dx100 or part of nx100 can be controll by opensource.. all the rest are depend on the software.

  • Torin,

    1) Your controller is extremely old however assuming your robot is in good condition it's actually not bad for offline programming. This is mainly because you have an additional link arm running from J2 to J3. It gives the robot good rigidity.

    2) Ethernet is just not a possibility on this robot. The best you will get is serial communications.

    3) FTP was not even a thought when MRC was developed. You will have to invest in the communication software called VDE or FDE to communication between a PC and the robot.

    4) The DLL file typically is not given away as a freebie. If you were planning on doing some software devleopment for mass distribution then I'm certain it would be a different story. That said, the communication protocol is freely available and would be up to you to develop the serial connection and handshaking, sending commands, receiving commands, etc...

    The Motoman DLL does this for you very simply and gives you sample code for VB, C++, etc...

  • Thank you everyone for your responses. Yes, I'm aware the MRC is old. It could have been worse - it could have been an ERC!

    I run a CNC shop and I'm used to being in control - I built my CNC milling machine control from the ground up using OpenSource (Linux CNC), motion control electronics, amplifiers, and industrial electrics all from eBay. This is how I built my business from the ground up - by being creative, innovative, ... and thrifty :-). Now my toys are getting bigger, but I must still be thrifty. Since I was on a strict budget, I couldn't afford the XRC.

    And therein lies why I have an MRC. I got it for cheap because I don't NEED a robot - I could very easily just stand there and load/unload parts from my CNC lathe manually... but I WANTED a robot so I could feed my lathe automatically whilst I do better things such as run my business, or spend time with the family. My garage is filled with automated machinery that does the work for me. In time... a long time from now though, I will have robots on tracks that literally bring parts from the saw, onto a machine, then move them to another machine, and so forth. All done by automated machinery, rather than low-cost manual labour.

    Anyway, I am mostly interested in doing offline programming. I would like to be able to, for example, create a program using some basic pendant teaching operations, then move the program off the MRC onto my PC for further refinement.

    Here is an example: I have a table placed beside my lathe - on this table, I would like to arrange 100 raw billets of 2" diam x 2" long aluminum, arranged in an array, butted up against a fixed rail for accurate positioning. The robot will move to billet x=0,y=0, put it in the lathe to machine side 1, flip the part and machine side 2 (a lathe that does this costs $25,000 more than the one I have), then return that part to x=0,y=0. Next, do the same for x=1, y=0. Repeat until all 100 raw units have been replaced on the table with completed units.

    Doing this on a pendant will probably drive a man insane. So, once I've established some relative positioning, such as the plane lying just above these raw pieces, I can adjust the program using a loop and program in the offsets, then send it back to the MRC for execution. While I'm doing this, I might optimize the path to reduce traverse time, etc.

    Again, with my software development background, I'd rather do this from my desk than standing there with a pendant.

    But perhaps, since I'm new, there might be a more clever way to program this in with the pendant... such as programming the bulk of the movement, but assigning each raw material position as a series of visits and position recordings that are then programmed in the same loop but on the pendant.

    But what do I know. I've never programmed one before, but if it's anything like g-code, I know I'll want to do it from my desk.

    Someone mentioned the protocol is freely available - does this mean I can simply use a comm program to transfer the programs to/from? If so, that'd be good enough.

    Yes, I thought I would need a JOB EDITOR. But, a simple comms program will work.

    So, can anyone describe the protocol interface? Is there a terminal I can log into (FTPd?) or is there a serial terminal shell on the MRC I can connect to? Is the JOB EDITOR free? Does it have I/O built into it? Anything, guys. I have a 1986 Hardinge CHNC1 that uses 9600 baud serial and hardware flow control with a silly PC transfer program, and that is enough to make me happy.

    Anything, so long as I don't have to always program from a pendant.


  • one European marketnone of them are free. i know that on USA market are a little bit different. call your local dealer and discuss with him.

  • Hi Torin,

    it seems to me that we have similar problem - the lack of cheap communication software.
    In our workshop we have two robots (SK-6R + MRC). One of them is used for welding, and the other for plasma cutting.
    For plasma cutting I managed to develop simple "translator" that converts G-code to JBI program. This way I can cut the simple 2D shapes using G-code. This solution has some drawbacks though. Fist is small memory of the controller, so if the program has too many points, the MRC shall refuse to load such program. The second problem is, that it works only for two-dimensional shapes (but this may be improved in future if I need it). For now I am programming 3D cutting from pendant. Third problem is... communication. I must use clumsy DOS-working program (FDE) that emulates floppy drive. So, to load my program to the robot I must translate G-code to JBI file, then copy it to USB stick, start my very old laptop in Linux to be able to copy from USB stick to DOS partition (DOS does not support USB sticks), then reboot to DOS and load the program to MRC. All it takes 15 minutes, and if I must change something, then another 15 minutes is gone...
    Of course, someone can say: "Just buy FDDWin" of something like this, but investing big money in so old robot is not very wise idea.
    I could try to develop this kind of software. The only think that I am missing is the specification of communication protocol.
    Robo Guru said that it is freely available, so could anyone post here (or send me by e-mail) this specification?
    I can try to make such communication program but one more question comes: shall Motoman allow me to release such program to the public? I don't want to break any copyright by doing so.

    Best Regards!

  • Krel,

    That project of yours sounds very interesting - I'm willing to bet that together, we could reduce your 15 minutes down to a more reasonable figure. For example, the first thing I would do is download a program called VMWare Player. This is a license-free commercial software allowing you to virtualize your operating system and call it up within another. For example, on my primary computer, I run a host operating system of Windows Vista (must due to the type of CAD/CAM software I use), but whenever I need to break into a Linux box, I run VMPlayer and load up the Linux instance to communicate with my EMC2 (milling machine) simulator.

    Likewise, using VMPlayer, you could install the DOS operating system and create a bridge directory (a shared drive on the virtual machine) between your modern operating system and the virtual DOS OS. Now you can edit the software in place, then simply click on the VMPlayer window and hit "transfer" or whatever it is you do. Now your editing and transfer no longer require any delay due to rebooting/reloading, etc. I suspect the USB to FDD step would be eliminated somehow too, but I'm not familiar enough with your setup given the limited information you've provided.

    At any rate, I'd be very interested to hear more about the translator you've written (I have a SW background too), and the mechanisms you use to edit and transfer your wares to the MRC controller. Please, if interested, email me at torinwalker@gmail.com and let's chat.


  • Torin,

    If you are really set on doing offline programming, the on,y thing you can use is software from Motoman called MotoSIM. This software will allow you to make programs offline and in a format the robot can use once loaded in. To load the programs you need FDE for Windows. Both software packages are only available from Motoman and both are not cheep.

    Please remember a robot is not a CNC machine. It is a six axis articulated robot. The software to drive each of the six axis to move a tool from a point in three dimensional space to another point in space has been written by the robot manufacturer. They will not give up this code for you to play with.

    You mentioned you are taking your robot "home". Is this your house? Do you have three phase power in your house? Please remember MRC robots use the chassis as a common ground for all voltage reference. The robot is three phase but needs the fourth wire as neutral to your source. Be extremely careful if your are using a single phase to three phase converter. I have seen many people try to do this and end up blowing the converter in the MRC servo pack.


  • Uhm has anyone here used offline programming from IGM for IGM robots?
    They used a hybrid of 3ds max, and dll's you could take a solidworks fixture, clamps, and parts, then load them into a virtual cell, then step through welds,, and play back in a simulated or sped up time, (we used them to help determine bids for contracts),, I suspect there is more then one way to skin this cat, motoman, I like,, I use,, I am still learning,, but they do not share manuals,,or passwords or anything ,,they gouge customers ,,(yet they keep selling so they must be value),, uhm I like the idea that open source is free, and tailored as needed,, I like the idea a educated customer will be better for the robot,,, and the companies who use them,,, I have experienced a competitor walking into our company,, then copying our work,, so I know this,,personally,,, If,,a customer can make a working open source 3d graphic program which can translate ,,that into inform language,,,or whatnot,, and then they can write a transfer software to communicate with robot,,, I say COOL!! Motoman has neutered techs,,and small companies,, (they are getting a little better with sharing some manuals,, but I work for a nonprofit right now,, and paying more then 12k for basic programming classes for a couple people is ,,painful! and Motoman,, could make tutorials free,, software,,free,, manuals free,,, then when people play with the offline programming and see how easy it is or well it works,,, this would make them a much bigger power! (where I am tween 3 companies we have 32, and 39, and 7 more systems,, ) we like the motoman machines,, this,,, would make them more attractive,,, (handicapped people loading and unloading welding robots, for 7) the 32 and 39 are local atv for profit manufacturers,, but we all like them,, but I think we need to support some linux and or open source solutions on these,,,, sometimes I feel like corporate types are trolling this forum so I do not post at all,,,well

  • seems odd no one mentioned the python emulation pack on github https://github.com/glvnst/yasnac
    it's not dummy proof, takes a while to get all the "ah ha" moments if doing for the first time.

    so far I've gotten the disk emulator to work, still working on the remote
    what I can tell you is the cable is easy, a "null modem" 25 to 9 pin will work on the outside panel
    I found that I had to use older python stuff as well as 32bit, not 64bit
    the newer python gave me bunch of errors

    *MUST USE Python 2.xxx, pyserial 2.4 or below, and win32com ,
    you'll have to install pyserial manually but its easy

    and go through the code and replace port with your com port number ie com7

    I'll go into more detail of anyone needs. this forum and the guys up in canada are very helpful.

  • Hello Torin,
    I have three very old cells with two SK6 robots adn one positioner each. This cells were buyed from Robotec ( actually yaskawaGermany) and came from Brazil in 1996 ( or 1998 i don't remember now).
    To comunicate with these cells I use Motoman FDE and works very well.
    To programming offline you can try Motosim and translate the job to relative. In real controller you create de UF# in the same position and load the job (relative) via FDE.

    Rafael Schroer

    Motoman & ABB OLP Programmer

  • Robodoc, it's out off topic, but here in my city ( and in Brazil) many houses have three phase power. My house is one, I have 3 phase power with 380V between the three phases. But I use one phase for "each room" and in this case I have 220V between the phase and negative. If I had money i put one little robot to work in my garage, but the money is the problem now, and the solution too. :beerchug:

    Rafael Schroer

    Motoman & ABB OLP Programmer

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