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research-article

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

[+] Author and Article Information
Elias Brassitos

PhD Candidate, Piezoactive Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
elias.brassitos1@gmail.com

Nader Jalili

Professor, Piezoactive Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
n.jalili@northeastern.edu

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4037567 History: Received January 30, 2017; Revised June 22, 2017

Abstract

Space robots require compact Joint Drive Systems (JDS), 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 multi-stage transmissions that generally involve 3-6 stages. This current practice 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 joint drive system 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 flight 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 Nm 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 prosthetic and rehabilitation equipment.

Copyright (c) 2017 by ASME
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