Rapid acceleration of legged robots: a pneumatic approach

Master Thesis


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For robotics to be useful to the public in a multifaceted manner, they need to be both legged and agile. The legged constraint arises as many environments and systems in our world are tailored to ablebodied adults. Therefore, a practically useful robot would need to have the same morphology for maximum efficacy. For robots to be useful in these environments, they need to perform at least as well as humans, therefore presenting the agility constraint. These requirements have been out of reach of the field until recently. The aim of this thesis was to design a planar monopod robot for rapid acceleration manoeuvres, that could later be expanded to a planar quadruped robot. This was achieved through a hybrid electric and pneumatic actuation system. To this end, modelling schemes for the pneumatic cylinder were investigated and verified with physical experiments. This was done to develop accurate models of the pneumatic system that were later used in simulation to aid in the design of the platform. The design of the platform was aided through the use of Simulink to conduct iterative testing and multivariate evaluations using Monte Carlo simulation methods. Once the topology of the leg was set, the detail design was conducted in Solidworks and validated with its built in simulation functions. In addition to the mechanical design of the platform, a specialist boom was designed. The design needed to compensate for the forces the robot exerts on the boom as well as the material constraints on the boom. This resulted in the development of a cable-stayed, four bar mechanism boom system. An embedded operating system was created to control the robot and take in and fuse sensor inputs. This was run using multiple sensors, sub-controllers and microcontrollers. Sensor fusion for the system was done using a Kalman Filter to improve readings and estimate unmeasured states of the robot. This Kalman Filter took LiDAR and accelerometer readings as inputs to the system to produce a subcentimetre accurate position measure for the system. Finally, the completed platform was validated using fixed-body forward hopping tests. These tests showed a significant degree of similarity to the simulated results and therefore validated the design process.