Integrating sensors and actuators for robotic assembly
This thesis addresses the problem of integrating sensors and actuators for closed-loop control of a robotic assembly cell. In addition to the problems of interfacing the physical components of the work-cell, the difficulties of representing sensory feedback at a high level within the robot control program are investigated. A new level of robot programming, called sensor-level programming, is introduced. In this, the movements of the actuators are not given explicitly, but rather are inferred by the programming system to achieve new sensor conditions given by the programmer. Control of each sensor and actuator is distributed through a master-slave hierarchy, with each sensor and actuator having its own slave controller. A protocol for information interchange between each controller and the master is defined. If possible, the control of the kinematics of a robot arm is achieved through the manufacturer's existing control system. Under these circumstances, the actuator slave would be acting as an interface between the generic command codes issued from the central controller, and the syntax of the corresponding control instructions required by the commercial system. Sensor information is preprocessed in the sensor slaves and a set of high-level descriptors, called attributes, are sent to the central controller. Closed-loop control is achieved on the basis of these attributes. The processing of sensor information which is corrupted by noise is investigated. Sources of sensor noise are identified and new algorithms are developed to quantify the noise based on information obtained from the closed-loop servoing. Once the relative magnitudes of the system and measurement noise have been estimated, a Kalman filter is used to weight the sensor information and hence reduce the credibility given to noisy sensors; in the limit ignoring the information completely. The improvements in system performance by processing the sensor information in this way are demonstrated. The sensor-level representation and automatic error processing are embedded in a software control system, which can be used to interface commercial systems as well as purpose-built devices. An'industrial research project associated with the lay-up of carbon-fibre provides an example of its operation. A list of publications resulting from the work in this thesis is given in Appendix E.