Offline remote programming software enables students to advance the science of robotics

ABB’s RobotStudio offline programming and simulation software has earned a reputation as a leading tool enabling companies across a range of sectors to plan and execute robotic installations. For students at Austria’s UAS Technikum Wien, the software also played a valuable alternative to classroom-based teaching during lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) at Technikum Wien there is a state-of-the-art robotics laboratory, equipped with a range of ABB robotic solutions including collaborative and industrial robots and a variety of software programming suites. The Robotics Lab enables students to learn the science of robotic mechanics, electronics, sensors, processors and actuators needed for a productive career in robotics and mechatronics. With local support from ABB, the Robotics Lab provides university level instruction to advance the development of industrial robots for practical tasks in the present, and experimental applications in the future. 

No one could have predicted that the realities of remote learning would be put to the test by the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic, which was challenging for students and instructors alike. The benefits to be gained from hands-on development, testing and learning were going to be challenging to achieve with little or no physical access to the robots in the lab. 

According to UAS Masters student Daniel Schillhammer, “I graduated from high school with almost no technical background, but I knew that my passion for technology would be best served by pursuing higher education in mechatronics and automation systems, specifically how they apply to classic mobile and industrial robots, as well as cobots. 

“Before the pandemic happened, I hadn’t envisaged that the majority of my learning experience would end up being delivered remotely.” 

A major part of the Robotics Lab installation is the support provided by RobotStudio, ABB’s simulation and offline robotics programming software designed to not only apply actual tasks and processes to physically active robots, but importantly in this case remotely simulate and test new programming techniques without compromising ongoing live production. This meant that despite the lack of physical access – often for extended periods of time - a comprehensive program of educational training, programming and optimization experiences could be achieved entirely offline. 

According to Schillhammer, “ABB’s RobotStudio was essential as a learning tool. It enabled me to remotely test algorithms and communication interfaces that I had developed, which enabled me to progress my education without requiring daily in-person access to a robot.  

“And because the RobotStudio software is so comprehensive, I could be confident that what I had developed offline was going to work. It was greatly satisfying that when I was able to test with a physical robot what I had created in a simulated environment, it worked precisely as I anticipated. Remote learning had its drawbacks, but RobotStudio was not one of them. Quite the opposite. The detailed, in-depth experience was invaluable.” 

Schillhammer concluded, “As there were for everyone, multiple lockdowns occurred while my fellow students and I were trying to complete projects. For example, during one semester I was only physically present at the university only four times, but it didn’t compromise my progression. And when I was eventually introduced to ABB’s collaborative “GoFa” robot in the university’s actual lab for the first time. I had already done some remote programming for it. The only difference this time was that it was physically right in front of me, but it worked exactly as I expected.” 

Support from ABB 

Although the students’ lecturers are the first line of support, ABB Austria is nearby and can help with more in-depth robotics theories and experiments. However, because the RobotStudio software is so intuitive it enabled students like Schillhammer to resolve everyday issues as well.  

“It’s important that young people learn robotics because the field offers exceptional opportunities for people who can program, operate or work alongside them,” Schillhammer concluded. “It’s exciting that with the help of UAS and ABB, students and academics alike are gaining world-class experience. The potential for innovation, productivity and, ultimately, satisfying employment is huge.” 

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