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  1. Compliant grasping is crucial for secure handling objects not only vary in shapes but also in mechanical properties. We propose a novel soft robotic gripper with decoupled stiffness and shape control capability for performing adaptive grasping with minimum system complexity. The proposed soft fingers conform to object shapes facilitating the handling of objects of different types, shapes, and sizes. Each soft gripper finger has a length constraining mechanism (an articulable rigid backbone) and is powered by pneumatic muscle actuators. We derive the kinematic model of the gripper and use an empirical approach to simultaneously map input pressures to stiffness controlmore »and bending deformation of fingers. We use these mappings to demonstrate decoupled stiffness and shape (bending) control of various grasping configurations. We conduct tests to quantify the grip quality when holding objects as the gripper changes orientation, the ability to maintain the grip as the gripper is subjected to translational and rotational movements, and the external force perturbations required to release the object from the gripper under various stiffness and shape (bending) settings. The results validate the proposed gripper's performance and show how the decoupled stiffness and shape control can improve the grasping quality in soft robotic grippers.« less
  2. A reliable, accurate, and yet simple dynamic model is important to analyzing, designing, and controlling hybrid rigid–continuum robots. Such models should be fast, as simple as possible, and user-friendly to be widely accepted by the ever-growing robotics research community. In this study, we introduce two new modeling methods for continuum manipulators: a general reduced-order model (ROM) and a discretized model with absolute states and Euler–Bernoulli beam segments (EBA). In addition, a new formulation is presented for a recently introduced discretized model based on Euler–Bernoulli beam segments and relative states (EBR). We implement these models in a Matlab software package, namedmore »TMTDyn, to develop a modeling tool for hybrid rigid–continuum systems. The package features a new high-level language (HLL) text-based interface, a CAD-file import module, automatic formation of the system equation of motion (EOM) for different modeling and control tasks, implementing Matlab C-mex functionality for improved performance, and modules for static and linear modal analysis of a hybrid system. The underlying theory and software package are validated for modeling experimental results for (i) dynamics of a continuum appendage, and (ii) general deformation of a fabric sleeve worn by a rigid link pendulum. A comparison shows higher simulation accuracy (8–14% normalized error) and numerical robustness of the ROM model for a system with a small number of states, and computational efficiency of the EBA model with near real-time performances that makes it suitable for large systems. The challenges and necessary modules to further automate the design and analysis of hybrid systems with a large number of states are briefly discussed.« less
  3. Multisection continuum arms offer complementary characteristics to those of traditional rigid-bodied robots. Inspired by biological appendages, such as elephant trunks and octopus arms, these robots trade rigidity for compliance and accuracy for safety and, therefore, exhibit strong potential for applications in human-occupied spaces. Prior work has demonstrated their superiority in operation in congested spaces and manipulation of irregularly shaped objects. However, they are yet to be widely applied outside laboratory spaces. One key reason is that, due to compliance, they are difficult to control. Sophisticated and numerically efficient dynamic models are a necessity to implement dynamic control. In this paper,more »we propose a novel numerically stable center-of-gravity-based dynamic model for variable-length multisection continuum arms. The model can accommodate continuum robots having any number of sections with varying physical dimensions. The dynamic algorithm is of O(n2) complexity, runs at 9.5 kHz, simulates six to eight times faster than real time for a three-section continuum robot, and, therefore, is ideally suited for real-time control implementations. The model accuracy is validated numerically against an integral-dynamic model proposed by the authors and experimentally for a three-section pneumatically actuated variable-length multisection continuum arm. This is the first sub-real-time dynamic model based on a smooth continuous deformation model for variable-length multisection continuum arms.« less
  4. In this paper, we propose and investigate a new approach to modeling variable curvature continuum robot sections, based on Euler spirals. Euler spirals, also termed Clothoids, or Cornu spirals, are those curves in which the curvature increases linearly with their arc length. In this work, Euler spirals are applied to the kinematic modeling of continuum robots for the first time. The approach was evaluated using the sections of numerous continuum robots, including two novel parallel continuum robots. Each robot consists of three parallel sections, each with three thin, long McKibben actuators. These sections are poorly modeled by the widely usedmore »constant curvature kinematic model. The constant curvature and Euler spiral models were compared and the Euler spiral method was seen to be a significantly better match for a wide range of configurations of the robot hardware.« less
  5. Soft robotics has witnessed increased attention from the robotic community due to their desirable features in compliant manipulation in unstructured spaces and human-friendly applications. Their light-weight designs and low-stiffness are ideally suited for environments with fragile and sensitive objects without causing damage. Deformation sensing of soft robots so far has relied on highly nonlinear bending sensors and vision-based methods that are not suitable for obtaining precise and reliable state feedback. In this work, for the first time, we explore the use of a state-of-the-art high fidelity deformation sensor that is based on optical frequency domain reflcctometry in soft bending actuators.more »These sensors are capable of providing spatial coordinate feedback along the length of the sensor at every 0.8 mm at up to 250 Hz. This work systematically analyzes the sensor feedback for soft bending actuator deformation and then introduces a reduced order kinematic model, together with cubic spline interpolation, which could be used to reconstruct the continuous deformation of the soft bending actuators. The kinematic model is then extended to derive an efficient dynamic model which runs at 1.5 kHz and validated against the experimental data.« less