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What Is Robotics Simulation?

A robotic simulation can test possible components of a robotic arm without physically installing them.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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Robotics simulation is a method and means to test robotic components for performance without incorporating them into a physical robot. Typically done using software, robotics simulation can cut down on expense and waste by testing parts before they are built, ensuring that material is only used to build a robot that has already been shown to work. There are many different uses for robotics simulation, making it an efficient tool in the complex world of robotic engineering.

Robots are typically programmed to perform a variety of tasks using algorithms that dictate behavior. This means that as much or more effort goes into programming a robot than actually building it. Using robotics simulation, an engineer or programmer can put test algorithms into a virtual, 3-dimensional (3D) model of a robot in a virtual environment. What could take days or weeks of programming, tests, and recording data can be done in a matter of minutes or hours by using simulators.

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Simulation software can also help determine how to build the physical components of a robot. Although an engineer or designer may know what physical pieces a robot needs, the exact size and composition of these parts may be a process of trial and error to find optimal performance levels. Robotics software allows engineers to build virtual models of the robot in a 3D space in order to run through various tasks. If a virtual robot performs a task better or faster when its legs are eight inches (20.32 centimeters) apart rather than six or ten inches (15.24-25. cm) apart, the designer will have gained valuable data about how to build the robot.

Although it can be a useful tool, it is important to remember that robotics simulations have some downsides. A mistake in the programming parameters, such as forgetting to include gravity in calculations, will lead to flawed results. The possibility of human error remains a constant, creating a need for vigilance and careful procedure.

There are many different kinds of robotics simulation software available. Depending on the type of software used, the capabilities of the program may be more geared toward either engineering or programming. While there are several commercial brands of robotics software, there is also a large variety of open source or user-created programs that are typically free to download and use. A simple Internet search will quickly help identify options, allowing aspiring robotics engineers to find the best product for their intended project.

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