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Mechatronics Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 311-319, 1991 Printed in Great Britain

DESIGN OF A ROBOT

0957-4158/9l $3.00+0.00 © 199l Pergamon Press plc

GRIPPER WITH FORCE FEEDBACK CONTROL

J. D. TEDFORD

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

(Received 14 February 1991; accepted 1 March 1991)

Abstract--The design of a two-jaw robot gripper using a D.C. servomotor with optical encoder is described. Force control of the gripper is achieved using armature current sensing as a means of detecting motor torque and hence the force applied between the gripper jaws. The motor was modelled mathematically to obtain the second order equation relating armature current to the applied motor voltage. This relationship was used to develop a proportional plus integral digital control algorithm enabling force feedback to be achieved. Two-way communication between the ASEA robot controller and the IBM-XT gripper controller enables a range of gripping forces to be accessed throughout the robot programme cycle, any one of which may be selected at a particular time. Anticipated problems associated with the thermal drift and transient responses have largely been overcome by repeatedly recalibrating the gripper throughout a work shift.

INTRODUCTION

The majority of industrial robots used in materials handling applications are employed to hold and manipulate rigid objects such as mechanical or electrical components. These in general can withstand the application of firm gripping forces from a robot's end-effector, without suffering any detrimental effects. As a consequence, industrial robot grippers tend to be relatively simple mechanical calliper mechanisms, actuated by pneumatic, hydraulic or electro-mechanical drives. The motion of these grippers is stopped when the reaction force from the gripped object equals the power source of the gripper mechanism itself. With the enhanced 'intelligence' of second and third generation robots utilising adaptive control, based on information received about their immediate surroundings from sensors, a need exists for this 'intelligence' to extend to the robot end-effector, thus enabling it to alter the parameters of its gripping action depending on specific circumstances. Considerable research into end-effector design has been carried out in recent years with some notable successes in the development of multi-jointed articulating grippers suitable for specialised handling applications

[1-4].

The purpose of this particular project was to develop a two-jawed robot gripper of a conventional configuration with the ability to alter its applied force in a controlled manner. This was seen as being an appropriate extension to the capabilities of a conventional robot gripper, giving it the ability to handle a wide variety of objects requiring a range of gripping forces. Thus, objects which are fragile requiring a delicate purchase could be handled as readily as robust, heavy objects requiring a firm

311

312

J.D. TEDFORD

gripping force. The ultimate aim was to achieve this variability in gripping force from within the robot control system itself through the use of a force feedback controlled electro-mechanical gripper [5].

MECHANICAL

DESIGN

a

compact and reliable unit. The design finally settled on is shown in Fig. 1. This gripper uses as its power

source a permanent magnet D.C. servomotor with a planetary gearhead, through an anti-backlash split pinion gear, driving two opposing racks attached to the jaws of the gripper. The motor and gear ratios selected enabled a maximum gripping force of

40N

encoder attached at the rear of the motor gave a theoretical positional resolution for the gripper jaws of 0.86 t3m. The in-line orientation of the motor and encoder, although extending the tool centre point (TCP) of the robot arm, retained a degree of

Various

gripper

configurations

were

considered

in

an

attempt

to

maintain

to

be

achieved

with

a

maximum

closing

speed

of

180mmsec -~.

An

optical

to be achieved with a maximum closing speed of 180mmsec -~. An optical Fig. 1. Gripper

Fig. 1. Gripper with in-line motor and encoder.

314

J.D.

TEDFORD

A block diagram of the overall control system is shown in Fig. 3. A Hewlett Packard HCTL 1000 motion control IC was chosen as the controller for the servomotor. This IC is used to decode the output from the optical encoder to give positional control. It is also capable of producing a variable pulse-width modulated signal, which is used to control the armature current supplied to the motor. Thus the force applied between the gripper jaws can be directly controlled. The force feedback signal is derived from a constantin wire resistor mounted in series with the servomotor. The voltage drop across the resistor is measured by a differential amplifier, passed through an active filter to remove harmonics, and the resulting D.C. component used to provide the feedback signal to the controller IC, as shown in Fig. 4. An H-Bridge amplifies the TTL level pulse-width modulated signal used to drive the servomotor in either direction, to facilitate the jaws opening and closing. By changing the level of the input signal "SIGN" in Fig. 5, either pair of the diagonally opposed power transistors will conduct, driving the motor in one direction or the other. The circuit logic ensures that during direction reversal, an adequate delay exists between switching transistors on the same leg on and off, thus avoiding current overload.

Computer

(

H-Bridge

ampLifier

ASEA

cantroLLer Robot

Digital interface

_

r

--~~

Positionfeedback

--;

Forcefeedback

~[ RObotgripper

Fig. 3. Overall system block diagram.

~ Gripper motor

(force Resistor

sensor)

Differential amplifier

Fig. 4.

Generation of feedback signal.

~ Feedback signal )

o 7Z

e-~

O

~

MJEI3009

DI2 : : : CD4093

74LS08

74LS02

IN4007

) I::~I/M

IC4 : : : : BCA37

IN4001

Q4~Q6~QI2,QI6

Q3, Q7,QII,OI5

Ol-DB

IC3, IC2

ICl

D9-

IO NF

IK

IONF

L~ JR291K 22K

+SV

C5

R32

4,7

D8~L.~

R25

RI8

47

D7

amplifier.

H-Bridge

Fig. 5.

D3

F~8[

47 !

639 4,7

R7

4,7 RI4

BC

+SVRI

~)I

22 l JIK5

]RI3

I

RI2/

IK R4I

+SV

22R

IONF

R2

C3

I0 NF

RII 0

|

22K

IK

316

J.D. TEDFORD

The closed-loop transfer function for the force control is of the proportional plus integral type, namely

D(z)

-

M(Z)

--

E(z)

-

gp(1

+

ki)

{

z

z

-

1

(1

'/

+

gi)

for which the constants Kp and Ki can be determined for the specific sample and rise times implemented in the controller. The equivalent time-domain equation for the controller output is given by

m K

=

Kp

x

Kie K --

Kpe K

1 +

mK-1,

and it is this equation which is continuously evaluated in the control software to achieve the force control.

DIGITAL INTERFACE

Electronic hardware was required to provide the interface between the microcom- puter, the HCTL 1000 motor controller, the A-D converter and ASEA robot controller. A schematic of the interface is shown in Fig. 6. In addition to providing the control signal interface between the various devices, the microcomputer executes the software algorithm needed to achieve the force feedback control.

IBM PC

Address

Lines

N Lines Data

Address

decoding

j

HCTLIO00

controLLer Motor

f

ASEA

controLLer Robot

mAiD

converter

ockgeneratorJ

~[

MotorPWM)/

gripper

~<~AnoLogue I/P ] Force

sensor

Fig. 6. Digital interface block diagram.

Robot gripper with force feedback control

317

The HCTL 1000 provides the servomotor with the appropriate PWM drive signal when requested to do so and keeps track of the motor's position from the optical encoder. The A-D converter uses a 12-bit AD7572 chip in its "Slow Memory" mode. Although this causes the microcomputer to halt while conversion takes place, no significant time penalty was experienced in practice. The ASEA robot controller has eight data lines available for communication with external devices. Four of these are used for exclusive read while the other four are used for write. Thus a total of 16 different instructions can be written to or read from the robot controller. The 24 V logic of the robot controller needed to be isolated from the microcomputer, this was achieved by the use of appropriate opto-couplers. A PCB containing the necessary components for digital control and interface was designed using "Protel". This board was housed in one of the expansion slots of the microcomputer, with all external connections being made via a DB37 pin connector.

The

control

functions.

software

was

CONTROL

SOFTWARE

written

in Turbo

Pascal

4.0

to

perform

the

following

(i) Read and Write to the HCTL 1000 registers to enable the operating mode of the IC to be changed, and to set the PWM duty-cycle for variable force control. (ii) Read from and Write to the robot controller to initiate and acknowledge specific gripping actions at appropriate points in the robot programme cycle.

(iii)

Calibrate the gripper periodically by generating an unloaded velocity profile, for subsequent use in detecting the presence of an object between the gripper jaws.

(iv)

Open or close the gripper to any desired position.

(v) Close the gripper on an object and hold it with a predetermined force.

At the beginning of each work shift and periodically throughout it, a gripper calibration cycle would be called for. This calibration cycle essentially establishes the fully open position for the gripper in terms of optical encoder counts. It then generates a velocity profile for the gripper in terms of encoder counts versus time by gradually increasing the PWM duty-cycle until mechanical friction is overcome and the jaws close smoothly. Once closed, the maximum PWM duty-cyle is momentarily applied and the corresponding ADC value noted and normalised to scale the feedback signal. Repeating this calibration routine periodically throughout the work shift accounts for any performance changes resulting from temperature variations or static friction, and the accuracy of the force control is maintained. When the robot programme calls for a close gripper action, the force with which it closes on the object is specified by a four-bit input to the microcomputer. Thus any one of 16 different gripping forces, expressed as a percentage of the maximum force, can be applied. As the jaws close on the object, the velocity profile of the gripper is noted and compared with the stored profile. The tactile sensitivity of the gripper is preset to ensure that fragile objects are undamaged during this phase of the gripper's operation. When contact with the object is detected by a change in the velocity

318

J. D. TEDFORD

profile, a holding torque proportional to the preselected PWM duty-cycle is applied and maintained by means of the armature current feedback control previously described. Following an acknowledgement from the microcomputer, the robot con- troller continues with subsequent programme instructions until an open gripper command is encountered, at which point a 50% PWM signal with an opposite sign is sent to the gripper. After opening, the gripper is ready to receive another close command with a different closing torque or a recalibration command.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

A series of tests were conducted on.the gripper to verify its performance under various load conditions. While the results were being performed, the HCTL 1000 output (MK) was sampled at 100 Hz intervals and written to a computer file for subsequent analysis. The error signal was similarly recorded. Figure 7 shows the results of a typical plot of sampled data over a 2.5 sec interval. The y-axis is expressed in terms of "PWM units" reflecting the fact that the applied force is directly proportional to the PWM duty-cycle fed to the servomotor. It should be noted that the effective working range for the applied force ranges from a maximum PWM cycle having a mark to space ratio of 90%, to a minimum cycle required to overcome friction of approximately 40%, as determined from the calibration routine. Thus a requested applied force of 20% of maximum, results in an output force of {0.2(90-40) + 40} = 50 PWM units. As can be seen from Fig. 7, this value cor- responds closely to the steady state value of the output. It can also be seen that with the chosen values of Kp and Ki, the error signal rapidly approaches zero. Although both signals appear to be noisy, the performance of the gripper appears to be unaffected and successful tests have been carried out ranging from the handling of a 4 kg block of steel at one extreme, to a light bulb, raw egg and disposable plastic cup at the other.

 

Force

= 20%

 

Kp:

0.00010

K

I =

660

E

u_

80

6O

20

0

-20

-40

--

Time

Fig. 7. Typical output and error signal.

Robot gripper with force feedback control

CONCLUSIONS

319

The original aims of the project have largely been fulfilled. Through the use of a proportional plus integral control algorithm, the gripper is capable of handling a wide range of objects by applying a prescribed holding force maintained by feedback from the servomotor's armature current. The gripper controller mounted in the IBM-XT microcomputer acts as a slave processor which carries out the gripping routines on instruction from the ASEA robot control console. Thus when programming the robot, the programmer merely specifies a four-bit output command, obtainable from a look-up table, to specify an appropriate gripping force for the object being handled.

Acknowledgements--The author wishes to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Auckland University Research Grants Committee to make this project feasible.

REFERENCES

1. Okada T., Computer control of multijointed finger system for precise object handling. IEEE Transac-

tions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Vol. SMC-12, 3, 289-299 (1982).

2. Edson D. V., Giving robot hands a human touch. High Technology September 32-35 (1985).

3. Tedford J. D.

and Wong L. S., Compliant robot grippers. Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Conference of

the Ergonomics Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 1985, pp. 70-76 (1985).

4. Caporali M. and Shahinpoor M., Design and construction of a five-fingered robotic hand. Robotics Age February 14-20 (1984).

5. Lawrence A. M. (and Goodwin D.), Force feedback and position control of a manufacturing robotic gripper. Electrical and Electronic Engineering Dept, University of Auckland, Report No EE 88/36

(1988).