Synthesis and Design of a Bimodal Rotary Series Elastic Actuator
Day, Graham Allen
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A novel rotary series elastic actuator (RSEA) with a two-mode, or bimodal, elastic element was designed and tested. This device was developed to eliminate the compromise between human safety and robot performance. Rigid actuators can be dangerous to humans within a robot's workspace due to impacts or pinning scenarios. To increase safety, elastic elements can soften impacts and allow for escape should pinning occur. However, adding elasticity increases the complexity of the system, lowers the bandwidth, and can make control of the actuator more difficult. To get the best of both types of actuators, a bimodal clutch was designed to switch between rigid actuation for performance and elastic actuation for human safety. The actuator consisted of two main parts, a rigid rotary actuator using a harmonic gearhead and a drum brake designed to act as a clutch. The 200 W rotary actuator provides 54.7 Nm of torque with a maximum speed of 41.4 rpm. The measured efficiency was 0.797 due to a timing belt speed reduction that was then speed reduced with a harmonic gearhead. The clutch was a drum brake actuated with a pantograph linkage and ACME lead screw. This configuration produced 11 Nm of holding torque experimentally but was theoretically shown to produce up to 51.4 Nm with larger motors. The elastic element was designed using finite element analysis (FEA) and tested experimentally to find a measured stiffness of 290 Nm/rad.
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