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Energies 2016, 9(3), 213; doi:10.3390/en9030213

An Actuator Control Unit for Safety-Critical Mechatronic Applications with Embedded Energy Storage Backup

Dipartimento Ingegneria della Informazione, Università di Pisa, via G. Caruso 16, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Academic Editor: Rodolfo Araneo
Received: 13 January 2016 / Revised: 12 March 2016 / Accepted: 14 March 2016 / Published: 17 March 2016
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Abstract

This paper presents an actuator control unit (ACU) with a 450-J embedded energy storage backup to face safety critical mechatronic applications. The idea is to ensure full operation of electric actuators, even in the case of battery failure, by using supercapacitors as a local energy tank. Thanks to integrated switching converter circuitry, the supercapacitors provide the required voltage and current levels for the required time to guarantee actuator operation until the system enters into safety mode. Experimental results are presented for a target application related to the control of servomotors for a robotized prosthetic arm. Mechatronic devices for rehabilitation or assisted living of injured and/or elderly people are available today. In most cases, they are battery powered with lithium-based cells, providing high energy density and low weight, but at the expense of a reduced robustness compared to lead-acid- or nickel-based battery cells. The ACU of this work ensures full operation of the wearable robotized arm, controlled through acceleration and electromyography (EMG) sensor signals, even in the case of battery failure, thanks to the embedded energy backup unit. To prove the configurability and scalability of the proposed solution, experimental results related to the electric actuation of the car door latch and of a robotized gearbox in vehicles are also shown. The reliability of the energy backup device has been assessed in a wide temperature range, from −40 to 130 °C, and in a durability test campaign of more than 10,000 cycles. Achieved results prove the suitability of the proposed approach for ACUs requiring a burst of power of hundreds of watts for only a few seconds in safety-critical applications. Alternatively, the aging and temperature characterizations of energy backup units is limited to supercapacitors of thousands of farads for high power applications (e.g., electric/hybrid propulsion) and with a temperature range limited to 70 °C. View Full-Text
Keywords: actuator control unit (ACU); energy storage; ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for power systems; biomedical robotics; mechatronics; automotive electric actuators; power electronics and components actuator control unit (ACU); energy storage; ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for power systems; biomedical robotics; mechatronics; automotive electric actuators; power electronics and components
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Saponara, S. An Actuator Control Unit for Safety-Critical Mechatronic Applications with Embedded Energy Storage Backup. Energies 2016, 9, 213.

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