Pneumatic motion control systems for modular robots
This thesis describes a research study in the design, implementation, evaluation and commercialisation of pneumatic motion control systems for modular robots. The research programme was conducted as part of a collaborative study, sponsored by the Science and Engineering Research Council, between Loughborough University and Martonair (UK) Limited. Microprocessor based motion control strategies have been used to produce low cost pneumatic servo-drives which can be used for 'point-to-point' positioning of payloads. Software based realtime control strategies have evolved which accomplish servo-controlled positioning while compensating for drive system non-linearities and time delays. The application of novel compensation techniques has resulted in a significant improvement in both the static and dynamic performance of the drive. A theoretical foundation is presented based on a linearised model of a pneumatic actuator, servo-valve, and load system. The thesis describes the design and evolution of microprocessor based hardware and software for motion control of pneumatic drives. A British Standards based test-facility has allowed control strategies to be evaluated with reference to standard performance criteria. It is demonstrated in this research study that the dynamic and static performance characteristics of a pneumatic motion control system can be dramatically improved by applying appropriate software based realtime control strategies. This makes the application of computer controlled pneumatic servos in manufacturing very attractive with cost performance ratios which match or better alternative drive technologies. The research study has led to commercial products (marketed by Martonair Ltd), in which realtime control algorithms implementing these control strategy designs are executed within a microprocessor based motion controller.