Franka Installation Tutorial

How to set up the workstation to control the Franka Panda robot

by Garrett Pierson on September 19, 2019


This guide is intended to show how to setup the Franka control interface on a PC controlling the Panda robotic arm and summarizes the instructions on the Franka Emika website. The following steps will show how to install the necessary dependencies and set up the real time Linux kernel necessary for controlling the Panda robot.

Installing Dependencies & Building the Packages

Begin by installing the dependencies:

sudo apt install ros-kinetic-libfranka ros-kinetic-franka-ros

Build the libfranka Package:

sudo apt install build-essential cmake git libpoco-dev libeigen3-dev
git clone --recursive
cd libfranka
mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
cmake --build .
sudo make install

Build the franka-ros Package:

cd /path/to/desired/folder
mkdir -p catkin_ws/src
cd catkin_ws
source /opt/ros/kinetic/
catkin_init_workspace src
git clone --recursive src/franka_ros
rosdep install --from-paths src --ignore-src --rosdistro kinetic -y --skip-keys libfranka
catkin_make -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DFranka_DIR:PATH=/path/to/libfranka/build
source devel/

Kernel Installation and Set Up

The Panda requires a real time kernel running at 1 kHz to operate properly.

Getting a Generic Kernel:

  • Check the kernel version: uname -r
  • Get the kernel patch for the kernel version found previously at this website.


sudo apt install build-essential bc curl ca-certificates fakeroot gnupg2 libssl-dev lsb-release libelf-dev bison flex

Download Patch:

curl -SLO<your version>.tar.xz
curl -SLO<your version>.tar.sign
curl -SLO<your version number ex: 4.12 >/older/patch-<your version>-rt10.patch.xz
curl -SLO<your version number ex: 4.12 >/older/patch-<your version>-rt10.patch.sign

Unpack Patch:

xz -d linux-<your version>.tar.xz
xz -d patch-<your version>-rt10.patch.xz

Compiling the Kernel

Extract the Source Code:

 tar xf linux-<your version>.tar
 cd linux-<your version>
 patch -p1 < ../patch-<your version>-rt10.patch

Configure Kernel:

 make oldconfig
 When menu pops up choose option 5: Fully Preemptible Kernel
 # For the rest of the options, use default values
 # if fakeroot doesn't work, use sudo make deb-pkg
 fakeroot make deb-pkg
 sudo dpkg -i ../linux-headers-<your version>-rt10_*.deb ../linux-image-<your version>-rt10_*.deb

Verifying the Kernel

Restart the computer, go to the Grub boot menu, select your kernel. After entering uname -a you should see the output which contains PREEMPT_RT. realtime should exist at /sys/kernel/realtime and contain the number 1.

Adding Permissions

After kernel is running you need to create then add the user controlling the robot to the group named realtime:

 sudo addgroup realtime
 sudo usermod -a -G realtime <username here>

Add the following to the realtime group in /etc/security/limits.conf then logout and log back in:

 @realtime soft rtprio 99
 @realtime soft priority 99
 @realtime soft memlock 102400
 @realtime hard rtprio 99
 @realtime hard priority 99
 @realtime hard memlock 102400

Connecting to the Panda

  • Go to your router’s website, login with your user-name and password and find the Panda’s IP address. Enter the Panda’s IP to the address bar on a web browser and log in to the Franka Desk using your user-name and password or if it’s the first time you are connecting to the Franka Desk the user-name and password are created when you enter them.
  • To use a static IP be sure that you have a direct connection to the Panda: login to the Franka Desk, navigate to the network settings, uncheck the DHCP option, enter the Panda’s IP in the address field and then enter the network mask you wish to use into the network field. Configure the workstation’s network by going to the edit connections in the network settings, clicking edit on the connection you wish to use, switching it to manual, and then entering the address of the Panda and the network mask you are using. Be sure to switch back to automatic when you are finished using the Franka control interface.
  • To use the DHCP simply enter the Panda’s IP in your browser and login to the Franka Desk using your user-name and password.

Using the Panda

  • Unlock the joints from the control interface before using the Panda robot. To unlock the joints press the unlock/lock button which is on the main page of the Franka Desk in the side bar under the status section.
  • To shut down the Panda press the shut down button on the Franka Desk main page in the side bar. When shutting the Panda robot down be sure to wait for the robot to completely shut down before exiting the interface window.
  • Go do good stuff!