Research Papers

Kinematic Design Method for Rail-Guided Robotic Arms

[+] Author and Article Information
Dian J. Borgerink

Robotics and Mechatronics,
CTIT Institute,
University of Twente,
P.O. Box 217,
Enschede 7500 AE, The Netherlands
e-mail: d.j.borgerink@utwente.nl

Dannis M. Brouwer

Associate Professor
Mechanical Automation and Mechatronics,
University of Twente,
P.O. Box 217,
Enschede 7500 AE, The Netherlands
e-mail: d.m.brouwer@utwente.nl

Jan Stegenga

P.O. Box 797,
Assen 9400 AT, The Netherlands
e-mail: janstegenga@incas3.eu

Stefano Stramigioli

IEEE Fellow
Robotics and Mechatronics,
CTIT Institute,
University of Twente,
P.O. Box 217,
Enschede 7500 AE, The Netherlands
e-mail: s.stramigioli@utwente.nl

Manuscript received December 16, 2015; final manuscript received November 1, 2016; published online December 22, 2016. Editor: Vijay Kumar.

J. Mechanisms Robotics 9(1), 011010 (Dec 22, 2016) (9 pages) Paper No: JMR-15-1345; doi: 10.1115/1.4035187 History: Received December 16, 2015; Revised November 01, 2016

For special purpose robotic arms, such as a rail mounted ballast-water tank inspection arm, specific needs require special designs. Currently, there is no method to efficiently design robotic arms that can handle not quantifiable requirements. In this paper, an efficient method for the design and evaluation of the kinematics of manipulator arms on mobile platforms, with certain reach requirements within a limited space, is presented. First, the design space for kinematic arm structures is analyzed and narrowed down by a set of design rules. Second, key test locations in the workspace are determined and reduced based on, for example, relative positions and symmetry. Third, an algorithm is made to solve the inverse kinematics problem in an iterative way, using a virtual elastic wrench on the end effector to control the candidate structure toward its desired pose. The algorithm evaluates the remaining candidate manipulator structures for every required end-effector positions in the reduced set. This method strongly reduces the search space with respect to brute force methods and yields a design that is guaranteed to meet specifications. This method is applied to the use case of a rail-guided robot for ballast-water tank inspection. The resulting manipulator design has been built and the proof of concept has been successfully evaluated in a ballast-water tank replica.

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Fig. 1

Evaluation algorithm for test locations given the manipulator structure

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Fig. 2

Two-stage arm concept, with a magnet as intermediate end effector, latching to a wall. Only the large-stroke arm is considered in this study.

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Fig. 3

Mapping of tank locations to relative locations. The relative locations from the tank (left) determine the required workspace (right). The surface normal of the required pose is indicated with a line segment normal to a circle.

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Fig. 4

Reduced set of 169 test locations of the experimental ballast water tank

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Fig. 5

Candidate kinematic structures

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Fig. 6

Joint error, end-effector position error, and end-effector orientation error for manipulator structure M001 at test location L007. This test location is reachable with this manipulator structure: success.

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Fig. 7

Overlay in isometric view of kinematic model of manipulator structure M001 at test location L007, during simulation at iterations t = 1, 7, 40, 65, and 114

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Fig. 8

Joint error, end-effector position error, and end-effector orientation error for manipulator structure M002 at test location L147. This test location is not reachable with this manipulator structure: failure.

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Fig. 9

Overlay in isometric view of kinematic model of manipulator structure M002 at test location L147, during simulation at iterations t = 1, 10, 14, and 30

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Fig. 10

CAD model based on kinematic structure M005, with indicated joint offsets

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Fig. 11

Proof-of-principle manipulator, with covers, mounted on the robot, taking a measurement at one of the test locations

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Fig. 12

Robot in experimental ballast water tank, with manipulator folded to a minimum volume

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Fig. 13

Proof-of-principle manipulator taking a measurement under the rail




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