Our group will be sharing 3 papers on new results at ASME IDETC/CIE this year!
Dongsheng Chen, Zonghao Huang, Cynthia Sung: Electronics Design and Verification for Robots With Actuation and Sensing Requirements. ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE), Forthcoming.
Abstract: Robot design is a challenging problem involving a balance between the robot’s mechanical design, kinematic structure, and actuation and sensing capabilities. Recent work in computational robot design has focused on mechanical design while assuming that the given actuators are sufficient for the task. At the same time, existing electronics design tools ignore the physical requirements of the actuators and sensors in the circuit. In this paper, we present the first system that closes the loop between the two, incorporating a robot’s mechanical requirements into its circuit design process. We show that the problem can be solved using an iterative search consisting of two parts. First, a dynamic simulator converts the mechanical design and the given task into concrete actuation and sensing requirements. Second, a circuit generator executes a branch-and-bound search to convert the design requirements into a feasible electronic design. The system iterates through both of these steps, a process that is sometimes required since the electronics components add mass that may affect the robot’s design requirements. We demonstrate this approach on two examples — a manipulator and a quadruped — showing in both cases that the system is able to generate a valid electronics design.
Abstract: The drag coefficient plays a vital role in the design and optimization of robots that move through fluids. From aircraft to underwater vehicles, their geometries are specially engineered so that the drag coefficients are as low as possible to achieve energy-efficient performances. Origami magic balls are 3-dimensional reconfigurable geometries composed of repeated simple waterbomb units. Their volumes can change as their geometries vary and we have used this concept in a recent underwater robot design. This paper characterizes the drag coefficient of an origami magic ball in a wind tunnel. Through dimensional analysis, the scenario where the robot swims underwater is equivalently transferred to the situation when it is in the wind tunnel. With experiments, we have collected and analyzed the drag force data. It is concluded that the drag coefficient of the magic ball increases from around 0.64 to 1.26 as it transforms from a slim ellipsoidal shape to an oblate spherical shape. Additionally, three different magic balls produce increases in the drag coefficient of between 57% and 86% on average compared to the smooth geometries of the same size and aspect ratio. The results will be useful in future designs of robots using waterbomb origami in fluidic environments.
Abstract: Robot design is a complex cognitive activity that requires the designer to iteratively navigate multiple engineering disciplines and the relations between them. In this paper, we explore how people approach robot design and how trends in design strategy vary with the level of expertise of the designer. Using our interactive Build-a-Bot software tool, we recruited 39 participants from the 2022 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. These participants varied in age from 19 to 56 years, and had between 0 and 17 years of robotics experience. We tracked the participants’ design decisions over the course of a 15~min. task of designing a ground robot to cross an uneven environment. Our results showed that participants engaged in iterative testing and modification of their designs, but unlike previous studies, there was no statistically significant effect of participant’s expertise on the frequency of iterations. We additionally found that, across levels of expertise, participants were vulnerable to anchoring-and-adjustment, in which they latched onto an initial design concept and insufficiently adjusted the design, even when confronted with difficulties developing the concept into a satisfactory solution. The results raise interesting questions for how future engineers can avoid design bias and how design tools can assist in both efficient assessment and optimization of design workflow for complex design tasks.
Abstract: In this work, we consider the problem of controlling the end effector position of a continuum manipulator through local stiffness changes. Continuum manipulators offer the advantage of continuous deformation along their lengths, and recent advances in smart material actuators further enable local compliance changes, which can affect the manipulator’s bulk motion. However, leveraging local stiffness change to control motion remains lightly explored. We build a kinematic model of a continuum manipulator as a sequence of segments consisting of symmetrically arranged springs around the perimeter of every segment, and we show that this system has a closed form solution to its forward kinematics. The model includes common constraints such as restriction of torsional or shearing movement. Based on this model, we propose a controller on the spring stiffnesses for a single segment and provide provable guarantees on convergence to a desired goal position. The results are verified in simulation and compared to physical hardware.
Abstract: Repeated jumping is crucial to the mobility of jumping robots. In this paper, we extend upon the REBOund jumping robot design, an origami-inspired jumping robot that uses the Reconfigurable Expanding Bistable Origami (REBO) pattern as its body. The robot design takes advantage of the pattern’s bistability to jump with controllable timing. For jump repeatedly, we also add self-righting legs that utilize a single motor actuation mechanism. We describe a dynamic model that captures the compression of the REBO pattern and the REBOund self-righting process and compared it to the physical robot. Our experiments show that the REBOund is able to successfully self-right and jump repeatedly over tens of jumps.
Abstract: Modular and truss robots offer the potential of high reconfigurability and great functional flexibility, but common implementations relying on rigid components often lead to highly complex actuation and control requirements. This paper introduces a new type of modular, compliant robot: TrussBot. TrussBot is composed of 3D-printed tetrahedral modules connected at the corners with compliant joints. We propose a truss geometry, analyze its deformation modes, and provide a simulation framework for predicting its behavior under applied loads and actuation. The TrussBot is geometrically constrained, thus requiring compliant joints to move. The TrussBot can be actuated through a network of tendons which pinch vertices together and apply a twisting motion due to the structure’s connectivity. The truss was demonstrated in a physical prototype and compared to simulation results.
Abstract: We present an algorithm for self-reconfiguration of admissible 3D configurations of pivoting modular cube robots with holes of arbitrary shape and number. Cube modules move across the surface of configurations by pivoting about shared edges, enabling configurations to reshape themselves. Previous work provides a reconfiguration algorithm for admissible 3D configurations containing no non-convex holes; we improve upon this by handling arbitrary admissible 3D configurations. The key insight specifies a point in the deconstruction of layers enclosing non-convex holes at which we can pause and move inner modules out of the hole. We prove this happens early enough to maintain connectivity, but late enough to open enough room in the enclosing layer for modules to escape the hole. Our algorithm gives reconfiguration plans with O(n^2) moves for n modules.
Abstract: Underwater swimmers present unique opportunities for using bodily reconfiguration for self propulsion. Origami-inspired designs are low-cost, fast to fabricate, robust, and can be used to create compliant mechanisms useful in energy efficient underwater locomotion. In this paper, we demonstrate an origami-inspired robot that can change its body shape to ingest and expel water, creating a jet that propels it forward similarly to cephalopods. We use the magic ball origami pattern, which can transform between ellipsoidal (low volume) and spherical (high volume) shapes. A custom actuation mechanism contracts the robot to take in fluid, and the inherent mechanics of the magic ball returns the robot to its natural shape upon release. We describe the design and control of this robot and verify its locomotion in a water tank. The resulting robot is able to move forward at 6.7 cm/s (0.2 body lengths/s), with a cost of transport of 2.0.