Research Papers

Design and Development of a Compact High-Torque Robotic Actuator for Space Mechanisms

[+] Author and Article Information
Elias Brassitos

Piezoactive Systems Laboratory,
Department of Mechanical and
Industrial Engineering,
Northeastern University,
Boston, MA 02115
e-mail: elias.brassitos1@gmail.com

Nader Jalili

Professor Piezoactive Systems Laboratory,
Department of Mechanical and
Industrial Engineering,
Northeastern University,
Boston, MA 02115
e-mail: n.jalili@northeastern.edu

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received January 30, 2017; final manuscript received June 22, 2017; published online September 6, 2017. Assoc. Editor: Marcia K. O'Malley.

J. Mechanisms Robotics 9(6), 061002 (Sep 06, 2017) (11 pages) Paper No: JMR-17-1022; doi: 10.1115/1.4037567 History: Received January 30, 2017; Revised June 22, 2017

Space robots require compact joint drive systems (JDSs), typically comprising of actuator, transmission, joint elements that can deliver high torques through stiff mechanical ports. Today's conventional space drive systems are made from off-the-shelf actuators and multistage transmissions that generally involve three to six stages. This current practice has certain benefits such as short development time due to the availability of mechanical components. However, it lacks a system-level integration that accounts for the actuator structure, size and output force, transmission structure, gear-ratio, and strength, and often leads to long and bulky assemblies with large number of parts. This paper presents a new robotic hardware that integrates the robot's JDS into one compact device that is optimized for its size and maximum torque density. This is done by designing the robotic joint using a special transmission which, when numerically optimized, can produce unlimited gear-ratios using only two stages. The design is computerized to obtain all the solutions that satisfy its kinematic relationships within a given actuator diameter. Compared to existing robotic actuators, the proposed design could lead to shorter assemblies with significantly lower number of parts for the same output torque. The theoretical results demonstrates the potential of an example device, for which a proof-of-concept plastic mockup was fabricated, that could deliver more than 200 N·m of torque in a package as small as a human elbow joint. The proposed technology could have strong technological implications in other industries such as powered prosthetics and rehabilitation equipment.

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Fig. 3

Actuator concept schematic

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Fig. 2

Schematic representation of the differential planetary transmission

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Fig. 1

Schematic of a robot JDS

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Fig. 4

Free body diagram of the actuator transmission

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Fig. 5

Free Body Diagram of the input/output planets under load balancing

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Fig. 6

Bearing support structure of the JDS output

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Fig. 7

Roller features concept

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Fig. 9

Transmission gear-ratio versus JDS torque density

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Fig. 8

Mesh points of the JDS transmission

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Fig. 10

Motor diameter versus JDS torque density

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Fig. 11

Preliminary concept of the design

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Fig. 14

Finite element method results of stress distribution on the transmission retaining structure

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Fig. 20

Conventional space robot transmission

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Fig. 15

Results of the stress distribution on the planets pinion

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Fig. 16

Three-dimensional rendering of the proposed arm concept

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Fig. 17

Serial robotic arm concept shown in a folded and extended positions

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Fig. 18

Compact elbow/arm prosthetic concept

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Fig. 19

Transmission model of a conventional geared space drive system

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Fig. 12

(Top) A cross section of the final drive system; and (bottom) rendered three-dimensional figure of the design

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Fig. 13

Plastic mockup of the JDS transmission (without cover/motor)



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