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Converting meshlab structures to URDF How To

asked 2011-11-04 03:20:24 -0600

Scott gravatar image

updated 2014-01-28 17:10:43 -0600

ngrennan gravatar image

Direct coding of URDF files even using Xacro is cumbersome, and even more so as your models grow in complexity. Meshlab is fantastic and cost effective for creating the robot model components (stl) that one would want to put together in an articulated URDF model, however you still have to create the articulations between them manually, which makes for prettier models, but still leaves a tremendous amount of manual effort. Has anyone figured out how to go from Meshlab (freeware) to URDF that they can share here that does not involve having to buy other commercial software? David Lu has a nice tutorial on how to pull this off with non-freeware CAD software. Instead of using Meshlab he uses ProEngineer for the modelling combined with a SimMechanics plug in (also not free) that creates the linkage information. A great first step, however the ROS community would really benefit from a more cost effective open source based solution either using meshlab or some similar open source approach that would not involve having to purchase additional commercial software to bridge the gap between a nice open source GUI modeller such as Meshlab and the end product of a URDF. Hoping some bright person out there has already figured this out and can share their insights. Thanks in advance. -Scott

David Lu SimMechanics to URDF Tutorial

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answered 2011-11-05 20:14:19 -0600

AFAIK, you cannot create articulated models in MeshLab, so there is no way to automatically convert a MeshLab model to an URDF model. I love MeshLab, but it's just not the right tool for your job.

However, an answer to the broader question of how to use an open source CAD modeling tool to automatically create URDF models would be very much appreciated. I'm just afraid nobody has done it yet. :-)

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Thanks Martin and David. I heard that someone might be looking at a way to do this inside Collada at some point in the future. Maybe that will happen at some point. Thanks for confirming that there is staill a gap in this area.
Scott gravatar image Scott  ( 2011-11-09 15:14:05 -0600 )edit

answered 2011-11-06 04:14:10 -0600

David Lu gravatar image

I was aware at the time that the converter I was writing would only be useful for people who had the plugin, but since that's what the internship I was doing required, it made sense. It also appealed to me since it was compatible with a number of different CAD programs.

That said, if there were another suitable format other than the SimMechanics tool, it shouldn't be too hard to write one. However, I don't know of one.

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answered 2012-06-28 04:48:43 -0600

Hi all!

I am trying to run David Lu SimMechanics to URDF Tutorial, but it does not work, it just stay without doing nothing when executing: rosrun simmechanics_to_urdf planar_arm/TEST_ARM_ASSY.xml planar.yaml xml > planar.urdf

is it necessary to install something else? (I have already installed packages...)


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This would probably be better posted as its own question with more details about how exactly the program doesn't work. If you leave off the > planar.urdf does the program produce any output?

David Lu gravatar image David Lu  ( 2012-06-28 09:41:28 -0600 )edit

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Asked: 2011-11-04 03:20:24 -0600

Seen: 1,350 times

Last updated: Jun 28 '12