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This paper presents the design, analysis, and experimental validation of a miniature modular inchworm robot (MMIR). Inchworm robots are capable of maneuvering in confined spaces due to their small size, a desirable characteristic for surveillance, exploration and search and rescue operations. This paper presents two generations of the MMIR (Version 1—V1 and Version 2—V2) that utilize anisotropic friction skin and an undulatory rectilinear gait to produce locomotion. This paper highlights design improvements and a multi-body dynamics approach to model and simulate the system. The MMIR V2 incorporates a slider-crank four-bar mechanism and a relative body revolute joint to produce high-frequency relative translation and rotation to increase forward velocity and enable turning capabilities. Friction analysis and locomotion experiments were conducted to assess the systems performance on various surfaces, validate the dynamic model and simulation results, and measure the maximum forward velocity. The MMIR V1 and V2 were able to achieve maximum forward velocities of 12.7 mm/s and 137.9 mm/s, respectively. These results are compared to reported results of similar robots published in the literature.
With the increasing demands for versatile robotic platforms capable of performing a variety of tasks in diverse and uncertain environments, the needs for adaptable robotic structures have been on the rise. These requirements have led to the development of modular reconfigurable robotic systems that are composed of a numerous self-sufficient modules. Each module is capable of establishing rigid connections between multiple modules to form new structures that enable new functionalities. This allows the system to adapt to unknown tasks and environments. In such structures, coupling between modules is of crucial importance to the overall functionality of the system. Over the last two decades, researchers in the field of modular reconfigurable robotics have developed novel coupling mechanisms intended to establish rigid and robust connections, while enhancing system autonomy and reconfigurability. In this paper, we review research contributions related to robotic coupling mechanism designs, with the aim of outlining current progress and identifying key challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. By presenting notable design approaches to coupling mechanisms and the most relevant efforts at addressing the challenges of sensorization, misalignment tolerance, and autonomous reconfiguration, we hope to provide a useful starting point for further research into the field of modular reconfigurable robotics and other applications of robotic coupling.
This paper reviews the state-of-the-art in robotic tails intended for inertial adjustment applications on-board mobile robots. Inspired by biological tails observed in nature, robotic tails provide a separate means to enhance stabilization, and maneuverability from the mobile robot's main form of locomotion, such as legs or wheels. Research over the past decade has primarily focused on implementing single-body rigid pendulum-like tail mechanisms to demonstrate inertial adjustment capabilities on-board walking, jumping and wheeled mobile robots. Recently, there have been increased efforts aimed at leveraging the benefits of both articulated and continuum tail mechanism designs to enhance inertial adjustment capabilities and further emulate the structure and functionalities of tail usage found in nature. This paper discusses relevant research in design, modeling, analysis and implementation of robotic tails onto mobile robots, and highlight how this work is being used to build robotic systems with enhanced performance capabilities. The goal of this article is to outline progress and identify key challenges that lay ahead.
This paper presents the design, analysis and experimentation of a Discrete Modular Serpentine Tail (DMST). The mechanism is envisioned for use as a robotic tail integrated onto mobile legged robots to provide a means, separate from the legs, to aid stabilization and maneuvering for both static and dynamic applications. The DMST is a modular two-degree-of-freedom (DOF) articulated, under-actuated mechanism, inspired by continuum and serpentine robotic structures. It is constructed from rigid links with cylindrical contoured grooves that act as pulleys to route and maintain equal displacements in antagonistic cable pairs that are connected to a multi-diameter pulley. Spatial tail curvatures are produced by adding a roll-DOF to rotate the bending plane of the planar tail curvatures. Kinematic and dynamic models of the cable-driven mechanism are developed to analyze the impact of trajectory and design parameters on the loading profiles transferred through the tail base. Experiments using a prototype are performed to validate the forward kinematic and dynamic models, determine the mechanism's accuracy and repeatability, and measure the mechanism's ability to generate inertial loading.
In this paper the tip-over stability of mobile robots during manipulation with redundant arms is investigated in real-time. A new fast-converging algorithm, called the Circles Of INitialization (COIN), is proposed to calculate globally optimal postures of redundant serial manipulators. The algorithm is capable of trajectory following, redundancy resolution, and tip-over prevention for mobile robots during eccentric manipulation tasks. The proposed algorithm employs a priori training data generated from an exhaustive resolution of the arm's redundancy along a single direction in the manipulator's workspace. This data is shown to provide educated initial guess that enables COIN to swiftly converge to the global optimum for any other task in the workspace. Simulations demonstrate the capabilities of COIN, and further highlight its convergence speed relative to existing global search algorithms.
As researchers have pushed the limits of what can be accomplished by a single robot operating in a known or unknown environment, a greater emphasis has been placed on the utilization of mobile multi-robotic systems to accomplish various objectives. In transitioning from a robot-centric approach to a system-centric approach, considerations must be made for the computational and communicative aspects of the group as a whole, in addition to electromechanical considerations of individual robots. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art of mobile multi-robotic system research, with an emphasis on the confluence of mapping, localization and motion control of robotic system. Methods that compose these three topics are presented, including areas of overlap, such as integrated exploration and simultaneous localization and mapping. From these methods, an analysis of benefits, challenges and tradeoffs associated with multi-robotic system design and use are presented. Finally, specific applications of multi-robotic systems are also addressed in various contexts.
Mobile robots are used to operate in urban environments, for surveillance, reconnaissance, and inspection, as well as for military operations and in hazardous environments. Some are intended for exploration of only natural terrains, but others also for artificial environments, including stairways. This paper presents a mobile robot design that achieves autonomous climbing and descending of stairs. The robot uses sensors and embedded intelligence to achieve the task. The robot is a reconfigurable tracked mobile robot that has the ability to traverse obstacles by changing its track configuration. Algorithms have been further developed for conditions under which the mobile robot would halt its motion during the climbing process when at risk of flipping over. Technical problems related to the implementation of some of the robot functional attributes are presented, and proposed solutions are validated and experimentally tested. The experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach to autonomous climbing and descending of stairs.
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