Development of a Virtual Force Sensor for a Low-Cost Collaborative Robot and Applications to Safety Control.
ABSTRACT: To protect operators and conform to safety standards for human-machine interactions, the design of collaborative robot arms often incorporates flexible mechanisms and force sensors to detect and absorb external impact forces. However, this approach increases production costs, making the introduction of such robot arms into low-cost service applications difficult. This study proposes a low-cost, sensorless rigid robot arm design that employs a virtual force sensor and stiffness control to enable the safety collision detection and low-precision force control of robot arms. In this design, when a robot arm is subjected to an external force while in motion, the contact force observer estimates the external torques on each joint according to the motor electric current and calculation errors of the system model, which are then used to estimate the external contact force exerted on the robot arm's end-effector. Additionally, a torque saturation limiter is added to the servo drive for each axis to enable the real-time adjustment of joint torque output according to the estimated external force, regulation of system stiffness, and achievement of impedance control that can be applied in safety measures and force control. The design this study developed is a departure from the conventional multisensor flexible mechanism approach. Moreover, it is a low-cost and sensorless design that relies on model-based control for stiffness regulation, thereby improving the safety and force control in robot arm applications.
Project description:Soft robot arms possess unique capabilities when it comes to adaptability, flexibility, and dexterity. In addition, soft systems that are pneumatically actuated can claim high power-to-weight ratio. One of the main drawbacks of pneumatically actuated soft arms is that their stiffness cannot be varied independently from their end-effector position in space. The novel robot arm physical design presented in this article successfully decouples its end-effector positioning from its stiffness. An experimental characterization of this ability is coupled with a mathematical analysis. The arm combines the light weight, high payload to weight ratio and robustness of pneumatic actuation with the adaptability and versatility of variable stiffness. Light weight is a vital component of the inherent safety approach to physical human-robot interaction. To characterize the arm, a neural network analysis of the curvature of the arm for different input pressures is performed. The curvature-pressure relationship is also characterized experimentally.
Project description:To this day, despite the increasing motor capability of robotic devices, elaborating efficient control strategies is still a key challenge in the field of humanoid robotic arms. In particular, providing a human "pilot" with efficient ways to drive such a robotic arm requires thorough testing prior to integration into a finished system. Additionally, when it is needed to preserve anatomical consistency between pilot and robot, such testing requires to employ devices showing human-like features. To fulfill this need for a biomimetic test platform, we present Reachy, a human-like life-scale robotic arm with seven joints from shoulder to wrist. Although Reachy does not include a poly-articulated hand and is therefore more suitable for studying reaching than manipulation, a robotic hand prototype from available third-party projects could be integrated to it. Its 3D-printed structure and off-the-shelf actuators make it inexpensive relatively to the price of an industrial-grade robot. Using an open-source architecture, its design makes it broadly connectable and customizable, so it can be integrated into many applications. To illustrate how Reachy can connect to external devices, this paper presents several proofs of concept where it is operated with various control strategies, such as tele-operation or gaze-driven control. In this way, Reachy can help researchers to explore, develop and test innovative control strategies and interfaces on a human-like robot.
Project description:For industrial manufacturing, industrial robots are required to work together with human counterparts on certain special occasions, where human workers share their skills with robots. Intuitive human?robot interaction brings increasing safety challenges, which can be properly addressed by using sensor-based active control technology. In this article, we designed and fabricated a three-dimensional flexible robot skin made by the piezoresistive nanocomposite based on the need for enhancement of the security performance of the collaborative robot. The robot skin endowed the YuMi robot with a tactile perception like human skin. The developed sensing unit in the robot skin showed the one-to-one correspondence between force input and resistance output (percentage change in impedance) in the range of 0?6.5 N. Furthermore, the calibration result indicated that the developed sensing unit is capable of offering a maximum force sensitivity (percentage change in impedance per Newton force) of 18.83% N<sup>-1</sup> when loaded with an external force of 6.5 N. The fabricated sensing unit showed good reproducibility after loading with cyclic force (0?5.5 N) under a frequency of 0.65 Hz for 3500 cycles. In addition, to suppress the bypass crosstalk in robot skin, we designed a readout circuit for sampling tactile data. Moreover, experiments were conducted to estimate the contact/collision force between the object and the robot in a real-time manner. The experiment results showed that the implemented robot skin can provide an efficient approach for natural and secure human?robot interaction.
Project description:Variable-stiffness artificial muscles are important in many applications including running and hopping robots, human-robot interaction, and active suspension systems. Previously used technologies include pneumatic muscles, layer and granular jamming, series elastic actuators, and shape memory polymers. All these are limited in terms of cost, complexity, the need for fluid power supplies, or controllability. In this article, we present a new concept for variable-stiffness artificial muscles (the twisted rubber artificial muscle, TRAM) made from twisted rubber cord that overcomes these limitations. Rubber cord is inexpensive, readily available, and inherently compliant. When an extended piece of rubber cord is twisted, the tensile force it exerts is reduced and its stiffness is altered. This behavior makes twisted rubber ideal for use as an artificial muscle, because its output force and natural stiffness are both controllable by varying twist angle. We investigate the behavior of four types of rubber cord and evaluate which type of rubber allows for the greatest reversible reduction in average stiffness (fluoroelastomer [FKM standard] rubber, 56.42% reduction) and initial stiffness (silicone rubber, 92.62%). Tensile force and stiffness can be further altered by increasing the twist angle of the artificial muscle beyond a threshold angle, which initiates nonlinear buckling behavior. This, however, can cause plastic deformation of the artificial muscle. Using a single TRAM, we show how the equilibrium position and natural frequency of a system can be simultaneously altered by controlling twist angle. We further demonstrate independent position and stiffness control of a functional robotic arm system using an antagonistic pair of TRAMs. TRAMs are ready for immediate inclusion in a wide range of robotic systems.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To compare the 2 control arms of HPTN 035 [a hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) gel control arm and a no-gel control arm] to assess the behavioral effects associated with gel use and direct causal effects of the HEC gel on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, and genital safety. DESIGN:Randomized trial with 1 blinded (HEC gel) and 1 open-label (no-gel) control arms. METHODS:HIV-uninfected, sexually active women were randomized into the HEC gel arm (n = 771) and into the no-gel arm (n = 772) in 5 countries. Participants in the HEC gel arm were instructed to insert the study gel intravaginally <1 hour before each vaginal sex act. Data on sexual behavior, adherence, safety, pregnancy, and STIs were collected quarterly for 12-30 months of follow-up. RESULTS:During follow-up, mean reported condom use in the past week was significantly higher in the no-gel arm (81% versus 70%, P < 0.001). There were no significant differences, after adjusting for this differential condom use, between the 2 arms in the rates of genital safety events, pregnancy outcomes, or STIs, including HIV-1. CONCLUSIONS:In this large randomized trial, we found no significant differences between the no-gel and HEC gel arms in the rates of genital safety events, pregnancy outcomes, or STIs. These results aid interpretation of the results of previous vaginal microbicide trials that used the HEC gel as a control. The HEC gel is suitable as a control for ongoing and future vaginal microbicide studies.
Project description:A major challenge in robotic design is enabling robots to immediately adapt to unexpected physical damage. However, conventional robots require considerable time (more than several tens of seconds) for adaptation because the process entails high computational costs. To overcome this problem, we focus on a brittle star-a primitive creature with expendable body parts. Brittle stars, most of which have five flexible arms, occasionally lose some of them and promptly coordinate the remaining arms to escape from predators. We adopted a synthetic approach to elucidate the essential mechanism underlying this resilient locomotion. Specifically, based on behavioural experiments involving brittle stars whose arms were amputated in various ways, we inferred the decentralized control mechanism that self-coordinates the arm motions by constructing a simple mathematical model. We implemented this mechanism in a brittle star-like robot and demonstrated that it adapts to unexpected physical damage within a few seconds by automatically coordinating its undamaged arms similar to brittle stars. Through the above-mentioned process, we found that physical interaction between arms plays an essential role for the resilient inter-arm coordination of brittle stars. This finding will help develop resilient robots that can work in inhospitable environments. Further, it provides insights into the essential mechanism of resilient coordinated motions characteristic of animal locomotion.
Project description:Conventional mobile robots have difficulties adapting to unpredictable environments or performing adequately after undergoing physical damages in realtime operation, unlike animals. We address this issue by focusing on brittle stars, an echinoderm related to starfish. Most brittle stars have five flexible arms, and they can coordinate among the arms (i.e., inter-arm coordination) as well as the many bodily degrees of freedom within each arm (i.e., intra-arm coordination). They can move in unpredictable environments while promptly adapting to those, and to their own physical damages (e.g., arm amputation). Our previous work focused on the inter-arm coordination by studying trimmed-arm brittle stars. Herein, we extend our previous work and propose a decentralized control mechanism that enables coupling between the inter-arm and intra-arm coordination. We demonstrate via simulations and real-world experiments with a brittle star-like robot that the behavior of brittle stars when they are intact and undergoing shortening or amputation of arms can be replicated.
Project description:This paper presents an adaptive actuation mechanism that can be employed for the development of anthropomorphic, dexterous robot hands. The tendon-driven actuation mechanism achieves both flexion/extension and adduction/abduction on the finger's metacarpophalangeal joint using two actuators. Moment arm pulleys are employed to drive the tendon laterally and achieve a simultaneous execution of abduction and flexion motion. Particular emphasis has been given to the modeling and analysis of the actuation mechanism. More specifically, the analysis determines specific values for the design parameters for desired abduction angles. Also, a model for spatial motion is provided that relates the actuation modes with the finger motions. A static balance analysis is performed for the computation of the tendon force at each joint. A model is employed for the computation of the stiffness of the rotational flexure joints. The proposed mechanism has been designed and fabricated with the hybrid deposition manufacturing technique. The efficiency of the mechanism has been validated with experiments that include the assessment of the role of friction, the computation of the reachable workspace, the assessment of the force exertion capabilities, the demonstration of the feasible motions, and the evaluation of the grasping and manipulation capabilities. An anthropomorphic robot hand equipped with the proposed actuation mechanism was also fabricated to evaluate its performance. The proposed mechanism facilitates the collaboration of actuators to increase the exerted forces, improving hand dexterity and allowing the execution of dexterous manipulation tasks.
Project description:The spring-loaded inverted pendulum model is similar to human walking in terms of the center of mass (CoM) trajectory and the ground reaction force. It is thus widely used in humanoid robot motion planning. A method that uses a velocity feedback controller to adjust the landing point of a robot leg is inaccurate in the presence of disturbances and a nonlinear optimization method with multiple variables is complicated and thus unsuitable for real-time control. In this paper, to achieve real-time optimization, a CoM-velocity feedback controller is used to calculate the virtual landing point. We construct a touchdown return map based on a virtual landing point and use nonlinear least squares to optimize spring stiffness. For robot whole-body control, hierarchical quadratic programming optimization is used to achieve strict task priority. The dynamic equation is given the highest priority and inverse dynamics are directly used to solve it, reducing the number of optimizations. Simulation and experimental results show that a force-controlled biped robot with the proposed method can stably walk on unknown uneven ground with a maximum obstacle height of 5 cm. The robot can recover from a 5 Nm disturbance during walking without falling.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>In this work we address limitations in state-of-the-art ultrasound robots by designing and integrating a novel soft robotic system for ultrasound imaging. It employs the inherent qualities of soft fluidic actuators to establish safe, adaptable interaction between ultrasound probe and patient.<h4>Methods</h4>We acquire clinical data to determine the movement ranges and force levels required in prenatal foetal ultrasound imaging and design the soft robotic end-effector accordingly. We verify its mechanical characteristics, derive and validate a kinetostatic model and demonstrate controllability and imaging capabilities on an ultrasound phantom.<h4>Results</h4>The soft robot exhibits the desired stiffness characteristics and is able to reach 100% of the required workspace when no external force is present, and 95% of the workspace when considering its compliance. The model can accurately predict the end-effector pose with a mean error of 1.18±0.29 mm in position and 0.92±0.47<sup>°</sup> in orientation. The derived controller is, with an average position error of 0.39 mm, able to track a target pose efficiently without and with externally applied loads. Ultrasound images acquired with the system are of equally good quality compared to a manual sonographer scan.<h4>Conclusion</h4>The system is able to withstand loads commonly applied during foetal ultrasound scans and remains controllable with a motion range similar to manual scanning.<h4>Significance</h4>The proposed soft robot presents a safe, cost-effective solution to offloading sonographers in day-to-day scanning routines. The design and modelling paradigms are greatly generalizable and particularly suitable for designing soft robots for physical interaction tasks.