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.
Actuators2013, 2(3), 59-73; doi:10.3390/act2030059 - published online 3 July 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The majority of the commercial transtibial prostheses are purely passive devices. They store energy in an elastic element during the beginning of a step and release it at the end. A 75 kg human, however, produces on average 26 J of energy during one stride at the ankle joint when walking at normal cadence and stores/releases 9 J of energy, contributing to energy efficient locomotion. According to Winter, a subject produces on average of 250W peak power at a maximum joint torque of 125 Nm. As a result, powering a prosthesis with traditional servomotors leads to excessive motors and gearboxes at the outer extremities of the legs. Therefore, research prototypes use series elastic actuation (SEA) concepts to reduce the power requirements of the motor. In the paper, it will be shown that SEAs are able to reduce the power of the electric motor, but not the torque. To further decrease the motor size, a novel human-centered actuator concept is developed, which is inspired by the variable recruitment of muscle fibers of a human muscle. We call this concept series-parallel elastic actuation (SPEA), and the actuator consists of multiple parallel springs, each connected to an intermittent mechanism with internal locking and a single motor. As a result, the motor torque requirements can be lowered and the efficiency drastically increased. In the paper, the novel actuation concept is explained, and a comparative study between a stiff motor, an SEA and an SPEA, which all aim at mimicking human ankle behavior, is performed.
Actuators2013, 2(2), 45-58; doi:10.3390/act2020045 - published online 2 May 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: For manipulation tasks in uncertain environments, intentionally designed series impedance in mechanical systems can provide significant benefits that cannot be achieved in software. Traditionally, the design of actuated systems revolves around sizing torques, speeds, and control strategies without considering the system’s passive dynamics. However, the passive dynamics of the mechanical system, including inertia, stiffness, and damping along with other parameters such as torque and stroke limits often impose performance limitations that cannot be overcome with software control. In this paper, we develop relationships between an actuator’s passive dynamics and the resulting performance for the purpose of better understanding how to tune the passive dynamics for catching an unexpected object. We use a mathematically optimal controller subject to force limitations to stop the incoming object without breaking contact and bouncing. The use of an optimal controller is important so that our results directly reflect the physical system’s performance. We analytically calculate the maximum velocity that can be caught by a realistic actuator with limitations such as force and stroke limits. The results show that in order to maximize the velocity of an object that can be caught without exceeding the actuator’s torque and stroke limits, a soft spring along with a strong damper will be desired.