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Title: Development and optimisation of 3D printed compliant joint mechanisms for hypermobile robots
Author: Barber, Andrew Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 9299
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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Hypermobile robots are an area of robotics that are often used as exploratory robots, but have facets that feature in other areas of the field. Hypermobile robots are robots that feature multiple body segments or modules, with joints between each. These robots are often used for exploratory purposes due to being able to maintain contact with the ground due to their flexible bodies. Wormbot was a hypermobile robot developed at the University of Leeds, which used a locomotion gait based on that of a Caenorhabditis elegans nematode worm, otherwise known as C.elegans. This movement pattern is reliant on compliance; a mechanism where the joints are slightly sprung and comply to the environment. The next iteration of Wormbot needs to be reduced in size, which would also require a new actuation and compliance system. This thesis describes the process of investigating a method of compliance to be used in the next version of Wormbot, while utilising the multi-material 3D printing capabilities available at the University. 3D printing provides quick manufacturing, allowing for fast changes to made to prototype components if required. During the process of this research, two 3D printed compliant actuation systems were produced; a pneumatic bellow and a Series Elastic Element (SEE) to be used in tandem with a servo motor. Both methods were tested to analyse their performance. The bellow was produced to utilise the capabilities of multi-material printing to strengthening suspected weak areas of the actuator. However, the performance of the bellow was unsatisfactory, failing twice in two actuation tests tests due to the device breaking. The SEE on the other hand, designed with two stiffer plates and a rubber-like spring element in the middle, initially proved to be reliable and repeatable in performance, with potential to behave linearly to a set spring constant. These results were acquired by performing rotational step response tests and fitting a spring-damper model to the results. However, issues with the plastic material were discovered when it was found to deform much more than anticipated, behaving in a similar manner to an additional spring element, complicating the model. Simulation work to explore the potential for using different spring constants of joint compliance in varying environments was also explored. This involved testing a virtual Wormbot in a range of environments while altering joint compliance. These simulations revealed that softer joints allow for favourable performance in constricting environments, while stiffer joints lend themselves more to quicker movement.
Supervisor: Boyle, Jordan ; Culmer, Peter ; Neville, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available