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.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Billing, R. , and Fleischner, R. , 2011, “ Mars Science Laboratory Robotic Arm,” 14th European Space Mechanisms & Tribology Symposium, Constance, Germany, Sept. 28–30.
Kircanski, N. , and Goldenberg, A. , 1993, “ An Experimental Study of Nonlinear Stiffness, Hysteresis, and Friction Effects in Robot Joint With Harmonic Drives and Torque Sensors,” Third International Symposium on Experimental Robotics, Kyoto, Japan, Oct. 28–30, pp. 147–154.
Madden, J. , 2007, “ Mobile Robots: Motor Challenges and Materials Solutions,” Science, 318(5853), pp. 1094–1097. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Yakub, F. , Khudzairi, A. , and Mori, Y. , 2014, “ Recent Trends for Practical Rehabilitation Robotics, Current Challenges and the Future,” Int. J. Rehabil. Res., 37(1), pp. 9–21. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Sweet, L. , and Good, M. , 1985, “ Redefinition of the Robot Motion-Control Problem,” IEEE Control Syst. Mag., 5(3), pp. 18–25. [CrossRef]
Taghirad, H. D. , and Belanger, Pr. , 2001, “ H-Infinity-Based Robust Torque Control of Harmonic Drive Systems,” ASME J. Dyn. Syst., Meas., Control, 123(3), pp. 338–345. [CrossRef]
Musser, C. , 1955, “ Strain Wave Gearing,” United Shoe Machinery Corporation Building, Boston, MA, U.S. Patent No. 2,906,143. http://www.google.co.in/patents/US2906143
Schempf, H. , and Yoerger, D. , 1993, “ Study of Dominant Performance Characteristics in Robot Transmissions,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 115(3), pp. 472–482. [CrossRef]
Tuttle, T. D. , and Seering, W. P. , 1996, “ A Nonlinear Model of a Harmonic Drive Gear Transmission,” IEEE Trans. Rob. Autom., 12(3), pp. 368–374. [CrossRef]
Taghirad, H. D. , and Belanger, P. R. , 1998, “ Modeling and Parameter Identification of Harmonic Drive Systems,” ASME J. Dyn. Syst., Meas., Control, 120(4), pp. 439–444. [CrossRef]
Tomei, P. , 1990, “ An Observer for Flexible Joint Robots,” IEEE Trans. Autom. Control, 35(6), pp. 739–743. [CrossRef]
Readman, M. C. , and Belanger, P. , 1992, “ Stabilization of the Fast Modes of a Flexible Joint Robot,” Int. J. Rob. Res., 11(2), pp. 123–134. [CrossRef]
Bailak, G. , Rubinger, B. , Jang, M. , and Dawson, F. , 2004, “ Advanced Robotics Mechatronics System: Emerging Technologies for Interplanetary Robotics,” Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering (CCECE), Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, May 2–5, pp. 2025–2028.
Harmonic Drive LLC, 2016, “ Cup Type Component Sets & Housed Units,” Harmonic Drive LLC, Peabody, MA, accessed Aug. 24, 2017, http://www.harmonicdrive.net/_hd/content/catalogs/pdf/csf-csg.pdf
Yang, T. , Shaoze, Y. , and Ma, W. , 2016, “ Joint Dynamics Analysis of Space Manipulator With Planetary Gear Train Transmission,” Robotica, 34(5), pp. 1042–1058. [CrossRef]
Cruijssen, H. J. , Ellenbroek, M. , Henderson, M. , Petersen, H. , Verzijden, P. , and Visser, M. , 2014, “ The European Robotic Arm: A High Performance Mechanism Finally on Its Way to Space,” 42nd Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium, Baltimore, MD, May 14–16, pp. 319–334. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20150004070
Fleischner, R. , 2003, “ Concurrent Actuator Development for the Mars Exploration Rover Instrument Deployment Device,” Tenth European Space Mechanisms and Tribology Symposium, San Sebastian, Spain, Sept. 24–26, pp. 255–262. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2003ESASP.524..255F
Seok, S. , Wang, A. , Otten, D. , and Kim, S. , 2012, “ Actuator Design for High Force Proprioceptive Control in Fast Legged Locomotion,” IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Vilamoura, Portugal, Oct. 7–12, pp. 1970–1975.
Sensinger, J. W. , 2010, “ Unified Approach to Cycloid Drive Profile, Stress, and Efficiency Optimization,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(2), p. 024503. [CrossRef]
Yang, D. C. H. , and Blanch, J. G. , 1990, “ Design and Application Guidelines for Cycloid Drives With Machining Tolerances,” J. Mech. Mach. Theory, 25(5), pp. 487–501. [CrossRef]
Sensinger, J. , and Lipsey, J. , 2012, “ Cycloid vs. Harmonic Drives for Use in High Ratio, Single Stage Robotic Transmissions,” IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Saint Paul, MN, May 14–18, pp. 4130–4135.
James, B. , and Jayesh, D. , 1995, “ A High Torque to Weight Ratio Robot Actuator,” Robotica, 13(2), pp. 201–208. [CrossRef]
Yisheng, G. , Li, J. , Xianmin, Z. , Jacky, Q. , and Xuefeng, Z. , 2009, “ 1-DoF Robotic Joint Modules and Their Applications in New Robotic Systems,” IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO), Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 22–25, pp. 1905–1910.
Yan, H. , and Wu, Y. , 2006, “ A Novel Design of a Brushless Motor Integrated With an Embedded Planetary Gear Train,” IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatron., 11(5), pp. 551–557. [CrossRef]
Guido, C. , 1988, “ Twin Epicycloid System,” U.S. Patent No. EP19870870125.
Brassitos, E. , and Dubowsky, S. , 2015, “ Compact Drive System for Planetary Rovers and Space Manipulators,” IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), Busan, South Korea, July 7–11, pp. 664–669.
Schuler, S. , Kaufman, V. , Houghton, P. , and Szekely, G. , 2006, “ Design and Development of a Joint for the Dexterous Robot Arm,” Ninth ESA Workshop on Advanced Space Technologies for Robotics and Automation, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, Nov. 28–30, pp. 1–8. http://robotics.estec.esa.int/ASTRA/Astra2006/Papers/ASTRA2006-
Wedler, A. , Chalon, M. , Landzettel, K. , Görner, M. , Krämer, E. , Gruber, R. , Beyer, A. , Sedlmayr, H.-J. , Willberg, B. , Bertleff, W. , Reill, J. , Grebenstein, M. , Schedl, M. , Albu-Schäffer, A. , and Hirzinger, G. , 2012, “ DLR's Dynamic Actuator Modules for Robotic Space Applications,” 41st Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium, Pasadena, CA, May 16–18, pp. 223–237. http://esmats.eu/amspapers/pastpapers/pdfs/2012/wedler.pdf
Gao, X. H. , Jin, M. H. , Xie, Z. W. , Jiang, L. , Ni, F. L. , Shi, Sh. C. , Wei, R. , and Cai, H. G. , 2006, “ Development of the Chinese Intelligent Space Robotic System,” IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Beijing, China, Oct. 9–15, pp. 994–1001.
Rios, O. , and Tesar, D. , 2009, “ Design Criteria for Serial Chain Mechanisms Based on Kinetic Energy Ratios,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 131(8), p. 081002. [CrossRef]


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Schematic of a robot JDS

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Schematic representation of the differential planetary transmission

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Actuator concept schematic

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Free body diagram of the actuator transmission

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

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

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Bearing support structure of the JDS output

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Roller features concept

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Mesh points of the JDS transmission

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Transmission gear-ratio versus JDS torque density

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Motor diameter versus JDS torque density

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 11

Preliminary concept of the design

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 12

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

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 13

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

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 14

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

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 15

Results of the stress distribution on the planets pinion

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 16

Three-dimensional rendering of the proposed arm concept

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 17

Serial robotic arm concept shown in a folded and extended positions

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 18

Compact elbow/arm prosthetic concept

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 19

Transmission model of a conventional geared space drive system

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 20

Conventional space robot transmission




Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In