In a future intelligent factory, a robotic manipulator must work efficiently and safely in a Human–Robot collaborative and dynamic unstructured environment. Autonomous path planning is the most important issue which must be resolved first in the process of improving robotic manipulator intelligence. Among the path-planning methods, the Rapidly Exploring Random Tree (RRT) algorithm based on random sampling has been widely applied in dynamic path planning for a high-dimensional robotic manipulator, especially in a complex environment because of its probability completeness, perfect expansion, and fast exploring speed over other planning methods. However, the existing RRT algorithm has a limitation in path planning for a robotic manipulator in a dynamic unstructured environment. Therefore, an autonomous obstacle avoidance dynamic path-planning method for a robotic manipulator based on an improved RRT algorithm, called Smoothly RRT (S-RRT), is proposed. This method that targets a directional node extends and can increase the sampling speed and efficiency of RRT dramatically. A path optimization strategy based on the maximum curvature constraint is presented to generate a smooth and curved continuous executable path for a robotic manipulator. Finally, the correctness, effectiveness, and practicability of the proposed method are demonstrated and validated via a MATLAB static simulation and a Robot Operating System (ROS) dynamic simulation environment as well as a real autonomous obstacle avoidance experiment in a dynamic unstructured environment for a robotic manipulator. The proposed method not only provides great practical engineering significance for a robotic manipulator’s obstacle avoidance in an intelligent factory, but also theoretical reference value for other type of robots’ path planning.
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