Modular Manipulators for Cluttered Environments: A Task-based Configuration Design Approach

[+] Author and Article Information
Satwinder Singh

Clinical Affairs Department, Bio-Medical Engineering Ltd., Cyberport, Hong Kong

Ashish Singla

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala - 147004, India

Ekta Singla

Mechanical Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, Rupnagar - 140001, India

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4040633 History: Received December 09, 2017; Revised June 08, 2018


Modular manipulators gained popularity for their implicit feature of `reconfigurability' --- that is, the utilization of a modular library for different applications/scenarios. The works presented for robotic arms with modular architecture deals with specific values of D-H parameters, for example twist angles' values as 0 or 90. These limits on the robotic parameters lead to a smaller solution space for configuration synthesis problems and may result into no-feasible solution in a cluttered workcell. A task-based customized design of a manipulator to work in a given constrained environment may need a larger solution space --- i.e. more flexibility in robotic parameters and in number of degrees of freedom. This work deals with the adaptability of the modular architecture for even unconventional values of robotic parameters, resulting into the utilization of modular developments for highly cluttered environments. The proposed design strategy decides an optimal number of modules required for the environment in the first phase, which is followed by task-based `configuration planning' and `optimal assembly'. Three types of modules are proposed with same architecture and different sizes, as H, M and L. The configuration planning includes detailed discussion on type-selection of modules and their possible combinations. Comparison of all possible n-link combinations are analyzed based upon the optimized results with respect to the minimum torque values. Case studies of a power plant with two different workspaces are included to illustrate the two-phase strategy --- representing the importance of modularity in non-repetitive maintenance tasks.

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