The maneuvering and motion control of large flexible structures are often performed hydraulically. The pressure dynamics of the hydraulic subsystem and the rigid body and vibrational dynamics of the structure are fully coupled. The hydraulic subsystem pressure dynamics are strongly nonlinear, with the servovalve opening x(t) providing a parametric excitation. The rigid body and/or flexible body motions may be nonlinear as well. In order to obtain accurate ODE models of the pressure dynamics, hydraulic fluid compressibility must generally be taken into account, and this results in system ODE models which can be very stiff (even if a low order Galerkin-vibration model is used). In addition, the dependence of the pressure derivatives on the square root of pressure results in a “faster than exponential” behavior as certain limiting pressure values are approached, and this may cause further problems in the numerics, including instability. The purpose of this paper is to present an efficient strategy for numerical simulation of the response of this type of system. The main results are the following: 1) If the system has no rigid body modes and is thus “self-centered,” that is, there exists an inherent stiffening effect which tends to push the motion to a stable static equilibrium, then linearized models of the pressure dynamics work well, even for relatively large pressure excursions. This result, enabling linear system theory to be used, appears of value for design and optimization work; 2) If the system possesses a rigid body mode and is thus “non-centered,” i.e., there is no stiffness element restraining rigid body motion, then typically linearization does not work. We have, however discovered an artifice which can be introduced into the ODE model to alleviate the stiffness/instability problems; 3) in some situations an incompressible model can be used effectively to simulate quasi-steady pressure fluctuations (with care!). In addition to the aforementioned simulation aspects, we will present comparisons of the theoretical behavior with experimental histories of pressures, rigid body motion, and vibrational motion measured for the Battelle dynamics/controls test bed system: a hydraulically actuated system consisting of a long flexible beam with end mass, mounted on a hub which is rotated hydraulically. The low order ODE models predict most aspects of behavior accurately.

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