Elastic actuation can improve human-robot interaction and energy efficiency for wearable robots. Previous work showed that the energy consumption of series elastic actuators can be a convex function of the series spring compliance. This function is useful to optimally select the series spring compliance that reduces the motor energy consumption. However, series springs have limited influence on the motor torque, which is a major source of the energy losses due to the associated Joule heating. Springs in parallel to the motor can significantly modify the motor torque and therefore reduce Joule heating, but it is unknown how to design springs that globally minimize energy consumption for a given motion of the load. In this work, we introduce the stiffness design of linear and nonlinear parallel elastic actuators via convex optimization. We show that the energy consumption of parallel elastic actuators is a convex function of the spring stiffness and compare the energy savings with that of optimal series elastic actuators. We analyze robustness of the solution in simulation by adding uncertainty of 20% of the RMS load kinematics and kinetics for the ankle, knee, and hip movements for level-ground human walking. When the winding Joule heating losses are dominant withmore »
Convex Optimization for Spring Design in Series Elastic Actuators: From Theory to Practice
Natural dynamics, nonlinear optimization, and, more recently, convex optimization are available methods for stiffness design of energy-efficient series elastic actuators. Natural dynamics and general nonlinear optimization only work for a limited set of load kinetics and kinematics, cannot guarantee convergence to a global optimum, or depend on initial conditions to the numerical solver. Convex programs alleviate these limitations and allow a global solution in polynomial time, which is useful when the space of optimization variables grows (e.g., when designing optimal nonlinear springs or co-designing spring, controller, and reference trajectories). Our previous work introduced the stiffness design of series elastic actuators via convex optimization when the transmission dynamics are negligible, which is an assumption that applies mostly in theory or when the actuator uses a direct or quasi-direct drive. In this work, we extend our analysis to include friction at the transmission. Coulomb friction at the transmission results in a non-convex expression for the energy dissipated as heat, but we illustrate a convex approximation for stiffness design. We experimentally validated our framework using a series elastic actuator with specifications similar to the knee joint of the Open Source Leg, an open-source robotic knee-ankle prosthesis.
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- 2021 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS)
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 9327 - 9332
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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