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Kuka picks a place in controls

01 January, 2005

The German robot-maker Kuka has decided to offer the real-time software expertise that it has accumulated in building 50,000 robots, to other users. It has set up a company, Kuka Controls, to sell a pair of products that allow "hard" real-time operating systems to run on a PC at the same time as Windows XP.

Kuka says that this combination will allow users to control real-time applications while taking advantage of Windows packages such as visualisation software, CAD systems and databases.

One of Kuka`s control products, CeWin uses the Windows CE operating system; the other, VxWin, is based on Wind River`s VxWorks real-time operating system. If either the real-time operating system or Windows closes, the other system will continue to run.

Gerd Lammers, head of sales and marketing for Kuka Controls, hopes that the company will become "the number one vendor of Windows for real-time applications". The company was originally set up to serve other parts of Kuka, but Lammers reckons that that there is a potential external market for more than two million licences a year.

Lammers claims that running two operating systems on one piece of hardware has many attractions, including savings in costs and space, an increase in reliability, and a reduction in spare parts. He points out that Kuka itself uses single PCs to operate its six-axis robots.

As well as using the real-time software on its own robots, Kuka says that VxWin and CeWin have already been integrated into more than 10,000 other applications in areas such as automation, testing and aerospace. The company`s customers include Schneider, Elau, Bosch Rexroth and Phoenix Contact.

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