Control system architectures for distributed manipulators and modular robots
This thesis outlines the evolution of computer hardware and software architectures which are suitable for the programming and control of modular robots and distributed manipulators. Fundamental aspects of automating manufacturing functions are considered and the use of flexible machines, constructed from components of a family of mechanical modules and associated control system elements, are proposed. Many of the features of these flexible machines can be identified with those of conventional industrial robots. However a broader class of manufacturing machine is represented in as much as the industrial user defines the kinematics and dynamics of the manipulator. Such flexible machines can be referred to as "modular robots" or, where the mechanical modules are arranged in concurrently operating but mechanically decoupled groups, as "distributed manipulators". The main body of the work reported centred on the design of a family of computer control system elements which can serve a range of distributed manipulator and modular robot forms. These control system elements, whose cost is commensurate with the size and complexity of the manipulator's mechanical configuration, necessarily have many of the features found in robot controllers but also require properties of reconfigurability, programmability, and control system performance for the considerable array of manipulator configurations which can be constructed.