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  1. Soft and continuously controllable grippers can be assembled from fluidic prestressed composite (FPC) actuators. Due to their highly deformable features, it is difficult to model such actuators for large deflections. This article proposes a new method for modeling large deflections of FPC actuators called the chained composite model (CCM) to characterize the quasi-static response to an applied fluid pressure and load. The CCM divides an FPC actuator into discrete elements and models each element by a small rotation model. The strain energy of each element and the work done by pressure and loads are computed using third-order displacement polynomials withmore »unknown coefficients; then, the total energy is minimized to calculate stable shapes using the Rayleigh–Ritz method. This study provides a set of systematic design rules to help the robotics community create FPC actuators by understanding how their responses vary as a function of input forces and pressures for a number of modeling and design parameters. Composite actuators are fabricated and a soft gripper is developed to demonstrate the grasping ability of the FPCactuators. Pneumatic pressure and end loads are applied to the composite actuators, and their responses are measured. The modeled responses of the actuators are shown to be in agreement with the measured responses.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2023
  2. Abstract Variable stiffness robots may provide an effective way of trading-off between safety and speed during physical human–robot interaction. In such a compromise, the impact force reduction capability and maximum safe speed are two key performance measures. To quantitatively study how dynamic parameters such as mass, inertia, and stiffness affect these two performance measures, performance indices for impact force reduction capability and maximum speed of variable stiffness robots are proposed based on the impact ellipsoid in this paper. The proposed performance indices consider different impact directions and kinematic configurations in the large. Combining the two performance indices, the global performancemore »of variable stiffness robots is defined. A two-step optimization method is designed to achieve this global performance. A two-link variable stiffness link robot example is provided to show the efficacy of the proposed method.« less
  3. Abstract In this paper, we present a novel compliant robotic gripper with three variable stiffness fingers. While the shape morphing of the fingers is cable-driven, the stiffness variation is enabled by layer jamming. The inherent flexibility makes compliant gripper suitable for tasks such as grasping soft and irregular objects. However, their relatively low load capacity due to intrinsic compliance limits their applications. Variable stiffness robotic grippers have the potential to address this challenge as their stiffness can be tuned on demand of tasks. In our design, the compliant backbone of finger is made of 3D-printed PLA materials sandwiched between thinmore »film materials. The workflow of the robotic gripper follows two basic steps. First, the compliant skeleton is driven by a servo motor via a tension cable and bend to a desired shape. Second, upon application of a negative pressure, the finger is stiffened up because friction between contact surfaces of layers that prevents their relative movement increases. As a result, their load capacity will be increased proportionally. Tests for stiffness of individual finger and load capacity of the robotic gripper are conducted to validate capability of the design. The results showed a 180-fold increase in stiffness of individual finger and a 30-fold increase in gripper’s load capacity.« less
  4. Abstract In this paper, we study the effects of mechanical compliance on safety in physical human–robot interaction (pHRI). More specifically, we compare the effect of joint compliance and link compliance on the impact force assuming a contact occurred between a robot and a human head. We first establish pHRI system models that are composed of robot dynamics, an impact contact model, and head dynamics. These models are validated by Simscape simulation. By comparing impact results with a robotic arm made of a compliant link (CL) and compliant joint (CJ), we conclude that the CL design produces a smaller maximum impactmore »force given the same lateral stiffness as well as other physical and geometric parameters. Furthermore, we compare the variable stiffness joint (VSJ) with the variable stiffness link (VSL) for various actuation parameters and design parameters. While decreasing stiffness of CJs cannot effectively reduce the maximum impact force, CL design is more effective in reducing impact force by varying the link stiffness. We conclude that the CL design potentially outperforms the CJ design in addressing safety in pHRI and can be used as a promising alternative solution to address the safety constraints in pHRI.« less
  5. Abstract To reduce injury in physical human–robot interactions (pHRIs), a common practice is to introduce compliance to joints or arm of a robotic manipulator. In this paper, we present a robotic arm made of parallel guided beams whose stiffness can be continuously tuned by morphing the shape of the cross section through two four-bar linkages actuated by servo motors. An analytical lateral stiffness model is derived based on the pseudo-rigid-body model and validated by experiments. A physical prototype of a three-armed manipulator is built. Extensive stiffness and impact tests are conducted, and the results show that the stiffness of themore »robotic arm can be changed up to 3.6 times at a morphing angle of 37 deg. At an impact velocity of 2.2 m/s, the peak acceleration has a decrease of 19.4% and a 28.57% reduction of head injury criteria (HIC) when the arm is tuned from the high stiffness mode to the low stiffness mode. These preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility to reduce impact injury by introducing compliance into the robotic link and that the compliant link solution could be an alternative approach for addressing safety concerns of physical human–robot interactions.« less