Actuators2014, 3(2), 20-40; doi:10.3390/act3020020 - published online 3 April 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The current state-of-the-art of variable stiffness actuators consists mostly of different concepts for single-degree of freedom joints. However, in bio-inspired robotic applications, multiple degrees of freedom variable stiffness actuators are often desired. Currently, this is usually achieved by cascading single-degree of freedom actuators. The innovation presented in this work is a two-degree of freedom variable stiffness actuator using the mechanically adjustable and controllable equilibrium position actuator (MACCEPA) concept. The presented actuator is not a cascade of two single-degree of freedom actuators, but centralizes the two degrees of freedom in one single joint. Equilibrium position and stiffness of the actuator are, furthermore, independently controllable in both degrees of freedom. The design and experimental validation of the actuator are discussed in this work. The independence of adjusting the equilibrium position and stiffness of the actuator are experimentally validated. The results show that the measured characteristics of the actuator sufficiently match the theoretically calculated ones. Future work includes implementing the presented two-degree of freedom actuator in an application, like a bipedal robot or a robotic arm.
Actuators2014, 3(1), 1-19; doi:10.3390/act3010001 - published online 27 February 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: A monoarticular series elastic actuator (SEA) reduces energetic and peak power requirements compared to a direct drive (DD) in active prosthetic ankle-foot design. Simulation studies have shown that similar advantages are possible for the knee joint. The aims of this paper were to investigate the advantages of a monoarticular SEA-driven hip joint and to quantify the energetic benefit of an SEA-driven leg (with monoarticular hip, knee and ankle SEAs), assuming that damping (negative power) is passively achieved. The hip SEA provided minor energetic advantages in walking (up to 29%) compared to the knee and the ankle SEA. Reductions in required peak power were observed only for speeds close to preferred walking speed (18% to 27%). No energetic advantages were found in running, where a DD achieved the best performance when optimizing for energy. Using an SEA at each leg joint in the sagittal plane reduced the positive work by 14% to 39% for walking and by 37% to 75% for running. When using an SEA instead of a DD, the contribution of the three leg joints to doing positive work changed: the knee contributed less and the hip more positive work. For monoarticular SEAs, the ankle joint motor did most of the positive work.
Actuators2013, 2(4), 129-144; doi:10.3390/act2040129 - published online 25 November 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This paper presents a new type of muscle-like actuator, namely double-acting (DA) sleeve muscle actuator, which is suitable for the actuation of biologically-inspired and biomedical robotic systems, especially those serving human-assistance purposes (prostheses, orthoses, etc.). Developed based on the traditional pneumatic muscle actuator, the new DA sleeve muscle incorporates a unique insert at the center. With the insert occupying the central portion of the internal volume, this new actuator enjoys multiple advantages relative to the traditional pneumatic muscle, including a consistent increase of force capacity over the entire range of motion, and a significant decrease of energy consumption in operation. Furthermore, the insert encompasses an additional chamber, which generates an extension force when pressurized. As such, this new actuator provides a unique bi-directional actuation capability, and, thus, has a potential to significantly simplify the design of a muscle actuator-powered robotic system. To demonstrate this new actuator concept, a prototype has been designed and fabricated, and experiments conducted on this prototype demonstrated the enhanced force capacity and the unique bi-directional actuation capability.
Actuators2013, 2(4), 111-128; doi:10.3390/act2040111 - published online 22 October 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This paper presents a numerical study on optimal voltages and optimal placement of piezoelectric actuators for shape control of beam structures. A finite element model, based on Timoshenko beam theory, is developed to characterize the behavior of the structure and the actuators. This model accounted for the electromechanical coupling in the entire beam structure, due to the fact that the piezoelectric layers are treated as constituent parts of the entire structural system. A hybrid scheme is presented based on great deluge and genetic algorithm. The hybrid algorithm is implemented to calculate the optimal locations and optimal values of voltages, applied to the piezoelectric actuators glued in the structure, which minimize the error between the achieved and the desired shape. Results from numerical simulations demonstrate the capabilities and efficiency of the developed optimization algorithm in both clamped−free and clamped−clamped beam problems are presented.
Actuators2013, 2(4), 86-110; doi:10.3390/act2040086 - published online 2 October 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Arm support systems provide support throughout daily tasks, training or in an industrial environment. During the last decades a large diversity of actuated arm support systems have been developed. To analyze the actuation principles in these systems, an overview of actuated arm support systems is provided. This overview visualizes the current trends on research and development of these support systems and distinguishes three categories. These categories depend mainly on the functional status of the user environment, which defines the specifications. Therefore, the actuated arm support systems are classified according to their user environment, namely: ambulatory, rehabilitation and industrial. Furthermore, three main actuation principles and three mechanical construction principles have been identified.
Actuators2013, 2(4), 74-85; doi:10.3390/act2040074 - published online 1 October 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This paper presents feedforward, feedback and two-degree-of-freedom control applied to an Ionic Polymer-Metal Composite (IPMC) actuator. It presents a high potential for development of miniature robots and biomedical devices and artificial muscles. We have reported in the last few years that dehydration treatment improves the electrical controllability of bending in Selemion CMV-based IPMCs. We tried to replicate this controllability in Nafion-based IPMC. We found that the displacement of a Nafion-based IPMC was proportional to the total charge imposed, just as in the Selemion-CMV case. This property is the basis of self-sensing controllers for Nafion-based IPMC bending behavior: we perform bending curvature experiments on Nafion-based IPMCs, obtaining the actuator's dynamics and transfer function. From these, we implemented self-sensing controllers using feedforward, feedback and two-degree-of-freedom techniques. All three controllers performed very well with the Nafion-based IPMC actuator.