Build a MoveIt! Package

In this exercise, we will create a MoveIt! package for an industrial robot. This package creates the configuration and launch files required to use a robot with the MoveIt! Motion-Control nodes. In general, the MoveIt! package does not contain any C++ code.
IMPORTANT: This exercise requires a mix of ROS1 and ROS2 environments. Be careful what ROS environment is sourced in each terminal. The “MoveIt Setup Assistant” is not yet available in ROS2, so we run the ROS1 version. But it outputs a ROS1-compatible package, so we need to adapt the output for ROS2.


MoveIt! is a free-space motion planning framework for ROS. It’s an incredibly useful and easy-to-use tool for planning motions between two points in space without colliding with anything. Under the hood MoveIt is quite complicated, but (unlike most ROS libraries) it has a really nice GUI Wizard to get you started.

Reference Example

Using MoveIt with ROS-I

Further Information and Resources

MoveIt Setup Assistant Tutorial

Scan-N-Plan Application: Problem Statement

In this exercise, you will generate a MoveIt package for the UR5 workcell you built in a previous step. This process will mostly involve running the MoveIt! Setup Assistant. At the end of the exercise you should have the following:

  1. A new package called myworkcell_moveit_config
  2. A moveit configuration with one group (”manipulator”), that consists of the kinematic chain between the UR5’s base_link and tool0.

Scan-N-Plan Application: Guidance

Create a Base Package using the Setup Assistant

  1. Open a NEW terminal and setup your ROS1 workspace to run the MoveIt Setup Assistant. Put copies of the required URDF packages (ur_description, myworkcell_support) inside this ROS1 workspace, to make them visible to the Setup Assistant:

    cd ~/ros1_ws/src
    git clone
    cp -r ~/industrial_training/exercises/3.3/ros1/src/myworkcell_support ~/ros1_ws/src
    <edit ~/ros1_ws/src/myworkcell_support/package.xml & CMakeLists.txt and remove all references to myworkcell_core>
    cd ~/ros1_ws/
    source /opt/ros/noetic/setup.bash
    catkin build
    source ~/ros1_ws/devel/setup.bash
  2. Start the MoveIt! Setup Assistant (don’t forget auto-complete with tab):

    roslaunch moveit_setup_assistant setup_assistant.launch
  3. Select “Create New MoveIt Configuration Package”, select the workcell.xacro in ROS1 workspace’s myworkcell_support package, then “Load File”.

  4. Work your way through the tabs on the left from the top down.

    1. Generate a self-collision matrix.

    2. Add a fixed virtual base joint. e.g.

      name = 'FixedBase' (arbitrary)
      child = 'world' (should match the URDF root link)
      parent = 'world' (reference frame used for motion planning)
      type = 'fixed'
    3. Add a planning group called manipulator that names the kinematic chain between base_link and tool0. Note: Follow ROS naming guidelines/requirements and don’t use any whitespace, anywhere.

      a. Set the kinematics solver to KDLKinematicsPlugin a. Set the default OMPL planner to RRTConnect

    4. Create a few named positions (e.g. “home”, “allZeros”, etc.) to test with motion-planning.

    5. Don’t worry about adding end effectors/grippers or passive joints for this exercise.

    6. In the “ROS Controllers” tab, use the “Auto Add FollowJointsTrajectory” button to define a basic FollowJointTrajectory controller for the entire UR5 arm.

    7. Skip the Simulation and 3D Perception tabs.

    8. Enter author / maintainer info.

      Yes, it’s required, but doesn’t have to be valid

    9. Generate a new package and name it myworkcell_moveit_config.

      • make sure to create the package inside your ros1_ws/src directory

Create ROS2 Package from Setup Assistant Output

The outcome of the Setup Assistant is a new ROS1 package that contains a large number of launch and configuration files. We need to add a few files to customize this general-purpose package for our application and convert it to work with ROS2, where the setup assistant is not yet available.

Note: The world of MoveIt is continually evolving in ROS2; this is currently just one way to get a ROS2 package going and is not presented as the “correct” way.
  1. Create a new empty package inside your ROS2 workspace:

    source ~/ros2_ws/install/setup.bash
    cd ~/ros2_ws/src
    ros2 pkg create myworkcell_moveit_config --dependencies myworkcell_support
  2. Create an empty config/ subdirectory inside the new package and copy the following files from the config/ subdirectory of the ROS1 MoveIt config package:

  3. Open the ROS2 config/ompl_planning.yaml file in a text editor and add the following lines at the bottom:

    planning_plugin: 'ompl_interface/OMPLPlanner'
    request_adapters: >-
    start_state_max_bounds_error: 0.1
  4. Create a new controllers.yaml file in the ROS2 MoveIt package’s config directory:

      - manipulator_joint_trajectory_controller
      action_ns: follow_joint_trajectory
      type: FollowJointTrajectory
      default: true
        - shoulder_pan_joint
        - shoulder_lift_joint
        - elbow_joint
        - wrist_1_joint
        - wrist_2_joint
        - wrist_3_joint

    This file will configure MoveIt to use a controller for joint trajectory execution provided by ros_control.

  5. Create a new ros_controllers.yaml file in the ROS2 MoveIt package’s config directory:

        update_rate: 600  # Hz
          type: joint_trajectory_controller/JointTrajectoryController
          type: joint_state_controller/JointStateController
    # parameters for each controller listed under controller manager
          - position
          - position
          - velocity
          - elbow_joint
          - shoulder_lift_joint
          - shoulder_pan_joint
          - wrist_1_joint
          - wrist_2_joint
          - wrist_3_joint
        state_publish_rate: 100.0
        action_monitor_rate: 20.0
        allow_partial_joints_goal: false
          stopped_velocity_tolerance: 0.0
          goal_time: 0.0
        type: joint_state_controller/JointStateController

    These parameters configure the controller nodes at startup.

  6. Create a new launch directory inside the ROS2 moveit package, and a new launch file, inside that directory. This launch file will act as a single location to start up all components needed for both motion planning and execution.

    import os
    import yaml
    import xacro
    from launch import LaunchDescription
    from launch_ros.actions import Node
    from ament_index_python import get_package_share_directory
    def get_package_file(package, file_path):
        """Get the location of a file installed in an ament package"""
        package_path = get_package_share_directory(package)
        absolute_file_path = os.path.join(package_path, file_path)
        return absolute_file_path
    def load_file(file_path):
        """Load the contents of a file into a string"""
            with open(file_path, 'r') as file:
        except EnvironmentError: # parent of IOError, OSError *and* WindowsError where available
            return None
    def load_yaml(file_path):
        """Load a yaml file into a dictionary"""
            with open(file_path, 'r') as file:
                return yaml.safe_load(file)
        except EnvironmentError: # parent of IOError, OSError *and* WindowsError where available
            return None
    def run_xacro(xacro_file):
        """Run xacro and output a file in the same directory with the same name, w/o a .xacro suffix"""
        urdf_file, ext = os.path.splitext(xacro_file)
        if ext != '.xacro':
            raise RuntimeError(f'Input file to xacro must have a .xacro extension, got {xacro_file}')
        os.system(f'xacro {xacro_file} -o {urdf_file}')
        return urdf_file
    def generate_launch_description():
        xacro_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_support', 'urdf/workcell.urdf.xacro')
        urdf_file = run_xacro(xacro_file)
        srdf_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_moveit_config', 'config/myworkcell.srdf')
        kinematics_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_moveit_config', 'config/kinematics.yaml')
        ompl_config_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_moveit_config', 'config/ompl_planning.yaml')
        moveit_controllers_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_moveit_config', 'config/controllers.yaml')
        ros_controllers_file = get_package_file('myworkcell_moveit_config', 'config/ros_controllers.yaml')
        robot_description = load_file(urdf_file)
        robot_description_semantic = load_file(srdf_file)
        kinematics_config = load_yaml(kinematics_file)
        ompl_config = load_yaml(ompl_config_file)
        moveit_controllers = {
            'moveit_simple_controller_manager' : load_yaml(moveit_controllers_file),
            'moveit_controller_manager': 'moveit_simple_controller_manager/MoveItSimpleControllerManager'
        trajectory_execution = {
            'moveit_manage_controllers': True,
            'trajectory_execution.allowed_execution_duration_scaling': 1.2,
            'trajectory_execution.allowed_goal_duration_margin': 0.5,
            'trajectory_execution.allowed_start_tolerance': 0.01
        planning_scene_monitor_config = {
            'publish_planning_scene': True,
            'publish_geometry_updates': True,
            'publish_state_updates': True,
            'publish_transforms_updates': True
        # MoveIt node
        move_group_node = Node(
                    'robot_description': robot_description,
                    'robot_description_semantic': robot_description_semantic,
                    'robot_description_kinematics': kinematics_config,
                    'ompl': ompl_config,
                    'planning_pipelines': ['ompl'],
        # TF information
        robot_state_publisher = Node(
                {'robot_description': robot_description}
        # Visualization (parameters needed for MoveIt display plugin)
        rviz = Node(
                    'robot_description': robot_description,
                    'robot_description_semantic': robot_description_semantic,
                    'robot_description_kinematics': kinematics_config,
        # Controller manager for realtime interactions
        ros2_control_node = Node(
            parameters= [
                {'robot_description': robot_description},
        # Startup up ROS2 controllers (will exit immediately)
        controller_names = ['manipulator_joint_trajectory_controller', 'joint_state_controller']
        spawn_controllers = [
            for controller in controller_names
        return LaunchDescription([
            ] + spawn_controllers

    The bulk of the complexity here is finding and loading all the required parameters using the same helper functions we’ve used in previous launch files. This launch file defines four nodes to start with the most important one being the move_group node. Note that RViz is also started as node, which allows us to initialize it with the same parameters as the move_group node.

  7. Open the new package’s CMakeLists.txt file and add an installation rule for the config/ and launch/ directories underneath the calls to find_package:

    install(DIRECTORY config launch DESTINATION share/${PROJECT_NAME})
  8. Rebuild the workspace (colcon build) and test a launch file to see if the new package loads without errors:

    source ~/ros2_ws/install/setup.bash
    ros2 launch myworkcell_moveit_config
Don’t worry too much about how to use RViz. We’ll work through that in the next exercise.

Challenge Exercises

  • Imagine you have misrepresented your robot and need to add an additional joint. Would it be faster to make minor edits to all configuration files or to re-do the MoveIt package creation process? Try each method and compare.