Institute for
Robotics and Process Control

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MiRPA - Middleware for Robotic and Process Control Applications

In cooperation with Volkswagen AG.

Project Description

The realization of modular and distributed software systems can be simplified by using middlewares. As commercial middleware solutions do not meet hard real-time requirements, their usage has been limited in control applications in the past. We have conceived and realized the new middleware MiRPA (Middleware for Robotic and Process Control Applications). This message-driven middleware implementation has been designed for meeting special demands in robotic and automation applications. With MiRPA it is possible to design very modular and open control systems. Figure 1 shows an exemplary setup of a control system for a six-joint industrial manipulator. 

Figure 1: MiRPA-based software architecture of a robotic control system.

All installed modules only have one communicate partner: the middleware. Once interfaces have been defined modules can be added and/or exchanged even during runtime, which makes this software solution very attractive for research purposes. New sensors and controllers can be integrated easily without changing the core of the control system. Rapid control prototyping becomes significantly simplified due to an interface to Matlab/Simulink. Models from Matlab can be executed as MiRPA-module on the real-time target system.

The modules MP Interface (Manipulation Primitive) and MP Execution form the core of the system. The MP Interface module works as interface to the robot program, which is based on manipulation primitives, and MP Execution is connected to all control and sensor modules on the right side and generates set-points for the joint controller. The charm of this setup is that the communication interfaces of all modules on the right side in Fig. 1 have the same communication profile, which leads to this easy way of adding and exchanging modules.

Figure 2: Hardware architecture corresponding to Fig. 1.

Corresponding to Fig. 1 Fig. 2 shows the respective hardware setup for the robot control system, which has been designed for multi-sensor integration purposes. In this concrete case three PCs with MiRPA running on each of it are connected via Ethernet. The real-time capable protocol Qnet is used for intercommunication, and the modules of Fig. 1 run distributed on these PCs.

The usage of MiRPA is not limited to the field of robotics. Every time a modular, scalable, and flexible real-time system is desired, MiRPA brings in its great advantages. The following list shows some of the most important features of MiRPA:
  • Client/server communication model
  • Publisher/subscriber communication model
  • Ad hoc and context sensitive communication
  • Support of several real-time and non-time communication media
  • Routing functionality
  • Possibility of using redundant modules
  • Monitoring system for quality of service
  • Central deadlock avoidance
  • High performance on single and multiple node systems

Further information may be found in our Publications. In case of any further questions please contact Friedrich M. Wahl.

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