FIELD AND SPACE ROBOTICS LABORATORY
Fundamentals of Digital Mechatronics
Lauren DeVita, MS student
Prof. Sergio Pellegrino, Matthew Santer, and Tyge
Structures Lab, Cambridge University
Digital Mechatronics and Binary Robotics is a motion control concept for robots and machines that consists of using numerous binary actuators in a structure. Our goal is the development of both the fundamental design schemes for digital systems and the potential actuation mechanisms for such systems. One important focus of this research is the field of dielectric elastomer actuation.
Digital systems use binary actuation to perform necessary tasks. Each element has two potential states, and by choosing which state each element is in, desired positions and trajectories can be achieved. Such digital machines could use hundreds or even thousands of binary actuators. As the number of actuators is increased, the performance of the system approaches that of a continuous system. The simulation below shows locomotion achieved with binary actuation.
This research was highlighted in Wired
Currently we are investigating methods for achieving desired range and precision in the discrete work spaces of binary systems, such as in the figure below.
A 12-degree-of-freedom binary
mechanism, with its
Current actuators like DC motors and pneumatic cylinders are too heavy, expensive, or complex for binary robotics, and therefore new actuator technologies are being developed. An important focus of this research is Electrostrictive Polymer Artificial Muscles (EPAMs). One such embodiment of the actuator is a flexible frame actuator shown below. The actuator shown has expanded from 14 mm to 22 mm. In other actuators, even larger strain rates (>200%) have been achieved.
A prototype EPAM, demonstrating its two binary configurations.
Recent prototypes (click to view movies: 1.9 and 2.6 MB AVI format).
These actuators have already shown promising results as binary actuators. The video below shows 6 degree-of-freedom binary manipulator actuated by dielectric elastomer actuators.
(9.4 MB AVI)
Currently we are developing models for explaining the behavior of these actuators and optimizing their performance. Various analytical and experimental studies are being done to evaluate their effectiveness as conventional actuators for use in digital systems or other scientific and commercial applications. An example is the development of a hopping robot for micro-gravity environments. Early prototypes have shown jumps of 10 cm under earth's gravity (see below).
(1.5 MB MPG)
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