Setup URSim with Docker

URSim is the offline simulator by Universal Robots. Packed into a remote or virtual machine it acts almost identically to a real robot connected over the network. While it is possible to get URSim running locally on a Linux system or inside a VirtualBox virtual machine, we will focus on getting things setup using Docker. Using Docker for your simulated robot allows you to very quickly spin up a robot testing instance with very little computational overload.

This guide will assume that you have Docker already installed and setup such that you can startup Docker containers using your current user.

Start a URSim docker container

To startup a simulated robot run the following command. This will start a Docker container named ursim and startup a simulated UR5e robot. It exposes ports 5900 and 6080 for the browser-based polyscope access. Note that this will expose the simulated robot to your local area network if you don’t have any further level of security such as a firewall active. To prevent this, you can either skip the port forwarding instructions (skip the two -p port:port statements) in which case you’ll have to use the container’s IP address to access the polyscope gui rather than localhost or you can restrict the port forwarding to a certain network interface (such as the looppack interface) see Docker’s upstream documentation on port exposure for further information.

docker run --rm -it -p 5900:5900 -p 6080:6080 --name ursim universalrobots/ursim_e-series

External Control

To use the external control functionality, we will need the external_control URCap installed on the robot and a program containing its ExternalControl program node. Both can be prepared on the host machine either by creating an own Dockerfile containing those or by mounting two folders containing installed URCaps and programs. See the Dockerfile’s upstream documentation.

In this example, we will bind-mount a folder for the programs and URCaps. First, let’s create a local folder where we can store things inside:

mkdir -p ${HOME}/.ursim/programs
mkdir -p ${HOME}/.ursim/urcaps

Then, we can “install” the URCap by placing its .jar file inside the urcaps folder

URCAP_VERSION=1.0.5 # latest version as if writing this
curl -L -o ${HOME}/.ursim/urcaps/externalcontrol-${URCAP_VERSION}.jar \${URCAP_VERSION}/externalcontrol-${URCAP_VERSION}.jar

With this, start your URSim containers with the following command:

docker run --rm -it -p 5900:5900 -p 6080:6080 -v ${HOME}/.ursim/urcaps:/urcaps -v ${HOME}/.ursim/programs:/ursim/programs --name ursim universalrobots/ursim_e-series

With this, you should be able to setup the external_control URCap and create a program as described in URCap setup guide.

Network setup

As described above, you can always start the URSim container using the default network setup. As long as you don’t have any other docker containers running, it will most probably always get the same IP address assigned every time. However, to make things a bit more explicit, we can setup our own docker network where we can assign a static IP address to our URSim container.

docker network create --subnet= ursim_net
docker run --rm -it -p 5900:5900 -p 6080:6080 --net ursim_net --ip universalrobots/ursim_e-series

The above commands first create a network for docker and then create a container with the URSim image attaching to this network.

As we now have a fixed IP address we can also skip the port exposure as we know the robot’s IP address. The VNC web server will be available at

Script startup

All of the above is put together in a script in the ur_client_library package.

ros2 run ur_client_library

This will start a URSim docker container running on with the external_control URCap preinstalled. Created programs and installation changes will be stored persistently inside ${HOME}/.ursim/programs.

With this, you can run

ros2 launch ur_robot_driver ur_type:=ur5e robot_ip:=