All About Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robots – Advantages and Disadvantages

The concept of modular robots is an answer that came to meet the rigidity of robots with static forms. The wide variety of robots is the result of a number as high as combinations of shapes and forms. A robot used to clean the house has specific shapes and sizes, while an industrial robot comes with a completely different design.

Let’s imagine that there is a team of robots which together change their shape whenever they must do a different task. Yes, this is the concept of self-reconfiguring modular robots. The history of concept begins somewhere in the 1970s in computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining, where special modules could be changed automatically as an extension of a robotic arm. The concept of connecting mechanisms and creating a robot was developed in 1980s by Toshio Fukuda with the CEBOT (cellular robot). In 1990s, for the first time there were launched two types of architectures: lattice reconfiguration systems and chain-based systems.

Self Reconfiguring Modular Robots                                                          Source

The idea underlying the concept is to create a number of identical robots which can be combined to create a specific robot, compared with the classical concept of a robot which is designed for specific tasks. Each module has a control unit and a connection mode, but can’t be used separately due to lack of accessories.

In future there will be a specific focus to develop modular robots that can repair the structure created, an optimal time for reconfiguration, or create an optimal configuration. Another challenge is to create robotic modules with high versatility, value, and robustness. Continue reading (…)

Motion Planning Methods for Industrial Robots

The robot is a machine with motion or manipulation abilities, so one of the most important problems to deal with is motion planning, which implies modelling the environment taking into account obstacles within, and the robot, as an entity with complex and variable shape. Motion planning can be considered as a problem of developing algorithms to automatically calculate a continuous trajectory for a set of objects, possibly interconnected, in order to move from one position to another, avoiding collisions with other stationary or moving objects.

For a robot with a static base, the problem can be formulated in a much simpler fashion by choosing a trajectory for the robotic arm that does not interfere with items in a controlled environment. The higher the complexity of the robotic system and the more crowded the environment it operates in, the higher the complexity degree of the problem. Even when switching from a 2D to a 3D work space, all else remaining unchanged, raises the complexity of the problem significantly. The difficulty of the study increases even further if the robot is enabled with more degrees of freedom, as this implies a more complex architecture and a more difficult modelling of the robot and its environment.

KUKA robotic arm                     Source

Various types of 2D and 3D spatial representation have been used over the time, especially in computer aided design (CAD) applications, such as body geometry, limit representation, decomposition into cells or non-geometric subspaces, embodying volumes, decision trees and so forth. Continue reading (…)

Standards and Classifications of Industrial Robots

A robot can be defined as a means of automating operations normally performed by a human operator through direct interaction and coordination. It has a complex mechanical structure, with more degrees of freedom, and is controlled by flexible programming, while a manipulator is much more simplified in structure and is controlled by means a relatively rigid program, not so easy do modify.

General robot classification

There are two main types of robots based on the degree of mobility:

  • Fixed – robots do not move with respect to certain components of their environment;
  • Mobile – robots can travel in their environment by using various means of locomotion.

Intelligence is the ability of a natural or artificial system to adapt to the environment. In the following table we have a synthetic representation of robotic systems from the artificial intelligence viewpoint.

Table 1 – Robot classification based on AI

Capability Not similar to a human Similar to a human
1 Can repeat learned programs Automaton Automan
2 Is also mobile Mechanoid Mandroin
3 Has sensors and a computer implemented Android Humanoid
4 Is adaptive and heuristic Cyborg (cybernetic organism) Syman (synthetic man)
5 Has superhuman physical and mental abilities Hyborg Supersyman

Robotic systems can be divided into:

  • Robots;
  • Manipulators;
  • Teleoperation facilities;
  • Prosthetics;
  • Medical manipulators;
  • Automated guided vehicles (AGV);
  • Walking and crawling machinery.

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Can We Have the Perfect Household Robot?

Living under one roof with an intelligent machine seems to come right out of a movie in which we all might perform in the years to come. We will be actors and spectators to changes that will be made through extensive use of robots. At work, at home, from work to home, at the restaurant or at massage, we all will interact with robots. Do we need to prepare for this change or will it take place naturally?

The robots used for housework are becoming more intelligent and will have a positive impact on our free time which is offered by such robot. So far robots can be classed into vacuum cleaner robots, robots for cooking, robots for assisting people with disabilities, robots that help children to learn, robots that help to weight loss and the list goes on. Can we integrate all these robots into one? This is the challenge in the near future, to make a universal robot for housekeeping and to help family members.

All these tasks are done by people who have two hands, two legs, and a head. The perfect robot for household chores should contain the same structure? Hand mobility and the ease of objects manipulation, easy way to walk or run on two legs, the head that thinks, sees and hears everything that is happening around us, makes from us humans the ultimate machine. I might add a prediction – the perfect robot for household chores looks, thinks and moves like a human. This robot could be bought from stores by 2030, the year in which scientists believe that robots will become more intelligent than people.

What is a household robot?

The question seems simple, but the answer is as complicated as a robot. Each person has different expectations from a robot, a mature person has a specific wish list, while a child has a completely different list of expectations. A household robot must be an intelligent device that autonomously does useful tasks. Continue reading (…)

Spotlight on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs or drones are essentially mobile robots that can fly. They are used primarily in research, tracking and surveillance applications and are especially useful if the area to be monitored presents great risks for a manned mission. These aircraft were available, not very long time ago, only to professional and military fields, however thanks to developments in actuator technology, materials and, of course, processing power, such robots have become more affordable and are nowadays available to the general public. Apart from the practical abilities, the entertainment potential for these robots continues to be discovered as the market for these products continues to expand.

The commercially available systems come in various shapes and sizes, either in fixed wing constructions, similar in to planes, or with rotors, similar to helicopters, the latter being preferred as such drones can be also operated indoors or in narrow environments, multi-rotor type airframes being the most common in low altitude, short to medium range applications. These robots that can be remote controlled, either by dedicated consoles or even by your personal mobile device or can be fully autonomous in accomplishing their missions. In this article we review several UAV kits and platforms that we find interesting, cost-effective and, why not, entertaining. Continue reading (…)

An Overview of Wheeled Mobile Platform Systems

Wheeled robots can achieve greater speeds than any other types of mobile robots, are easy to build and generally easier to control. Despite the shortcomings on some types of terrain inherent to wheeled platforms, they are widely used almost everywhere for countless applications, robotics and otherwise. In this article we try to summarize all types of wheeled platforms in use today, as well as discuss mobility aspects, advantages and shortcomings of each type of platform.

Three generations of Martian rovers

Three generations of Martian rovers – Working test rovers similar to Spirit/Opportunity (left), Curiosity (right), Sojourner (front) employing rocker-bogie suspension | Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Platform mobility aspects

The most common type of vehicle in use today is the car — basically a four wheel platform with at least one drive axle, a directional axle and some form of suspension for each wheel. The majority of improvements to this type of platform have been made in the suspension and steering areas.

Modern 4 wheeled vehicles benefit from independent suspension for each wheel, although there are numerous types of suspension systems all of them consist of springs, dampers and connecting elements in certain combinations, the primary goal being to provide optimum dynamic characteristics for better control over the vehicle with respect to a myriad of factors such as terrain, vehicle type or purpose, chassis structural loads and so forth.
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Why Should we use Autonomous Industrial Mobile Manipulators

In 2011 the number of industrial robots worldwide was estimated at 150,000 units and by 2014 an average annual growth of about 6% is estimated. Asia is at the top of the growth rate with a percentage of 7%, followed by the US with an increased rate of 6% while on the last place we have Europe with an increase of about 4%. These numbers reveal the trend in automation industry where robots are programmed to do repetitive and different tasks. Two areas have integrated most industrial robots, car manufacturers and the electronics industry.

In 1954 the first patent was registered for an industrial robot by George Devol and two years later the company Unimation began the programmable industrial robot revolution. It took 16 years to release the first electromechanically-driven six axes industrial robot, another year passed before the first robotic arm with feedback from touch and pressure sensors was released. Starting with the year 1974 the world of industrial robots has evolved steadily up to a level of intelligence that allows for pattern recognition, feeling of touched objects, working in the same space with humans, high precision, very high speed in motion and a reduced ground footprint.

What is an autonomous industrial mobile manipulator?

An autonomous industrial mobile manipulator (AIMM) is a hybrid system between a service robot and an industrial robot. It is necessary to introduce in production process mobile robots due to increased complexity of tasks, to embed environment adaptation techniques and reduce costs due to use in many related tasks the units in the same time.

The technology exists and is improved since 2008, when research of an autonomous robot for the industrial field was started by the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Aalborg University in Denmark. There are major differences between an industrial robot and an autonomous mobile robot used in industrial environments. The latter must be mobile, must adapt to the environment and must work together with humans, understanding them, all this while carrying objects of various sizes and weights. Continue reading (…)