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Sandeep Urankar, Pranjal Jain, Anurag Singh, Anupam Saxena and Bhaskar Dasgupta Department of Mechanical Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur – 208016
The design of a rope climbing robot was an exercise in bio-mimicry, an attempt in copying the exact motion of a sloth bear while climbing. The advantages of bio-mimicry are well known, but the true justification is that since much of the proposed robotic behavior already has precise analogies in nature, it is reasonable to copy them for our applications. Biological systems, having evolved over millions of years, provide us proven and efficient solutions to problems of navigation, motion, sensing and searching. Such a design based on a biological organism, if perfected, would be much better than its conventional counterparts. The design which results from this exercise is quite robust, versatile and has many potential applications in industry. 1. Introduction
A study of the sloth bear (Fig 1) in motion reveals that the bear uses both pairs of its limbs (fore limbs and hind limbs) to climb a rope or a tree. It moves both its hind limbs in one step and then both its fore limbs in another. Each pair of limbs acts as a gripper. Only one pair of limbs is used at a time for gripping the tree (while in motion) while the other pair slides over the tree. The bear uses its back as a hinge, the back being straight in one instant and bent in the other. This movement when coordinated can be a very efficient and a reliable mechanism for climbing. No wonder then, the sloth is one of the best climbers in nature. This is also the reason why it was chosen as a model for our study.
In recent years, several researchers and groups have reported work on such biomimetic devices. For example, “The Robo-tuna” (Barrett ) is an ongoing project at MIT’s department of ocean engineering, where attempts are being made to copy the motion of a blue-fin tuna in order to develop a better propulsion system for autonomous underwater vehicles. Ayers et al  reported attempts being made at the Marine Science Center, Northeastern University, to copy the behavior of lobsters for the purpose of conducting autonomous investigation of both the bottom and water column of the littoral zone of an ocean. Analysis and development of snake-like devices has been reported by Hirose . The ROBO-Sloth is comparatively simpler as far as its behavior is concerned. It has only to move along a pre-defined path. An improvement in design would be to enable the robot to shift between ropes, whereby the problem would become that of motion in space rather than along predefined path (rope).
Choosing the appropriate power transmission mechanism at the centre is crucial as a lot of torque acts at this point. it can be modeled if it were to be thought of as two links hinged at the center.1 Design of Backbone A mechanical model. if needed. 1 The Sloth 2. However. The reasons were obvious. Besides this obvious advantage. this is a self locking mechanism. A motor could be placed between the two links. more redundancies may be added. since the bear’s back is more flexible than this.Fig. Fig. formulated based on the observation of the sloth. would essentially be a set of four bar mechanisms (see Ghosh and Mallik ). we chose to place a worm and worm-wheel mechanism at the center. this approximation is valid and serves our purpose at the moment. we would need to control this rotation if we are to control the climbing. it can provide the appropriate speed reduction in order to make the motion of the sloth slow and steady. Not only that. Mechanical Model 2. This is of course an approximation. For this purpose. a power source has to be placed at the joint (Fig 3). performing actions similar to that of the bear. In future. In the actual fabrication of our robot. especially if the robot is to carry huge payloads. Beginning with the backbone. motor 2 . The entire body of the bear and the grippers can be modeled as four bar mechanisms. it ensures that the link doesn’t fall back into place once the motor has been deactivated. 2 Backbone of mechanism The links would have to rotate about the central joint in order to mimic the sloth.
Link 1 Link 4 Link 2 Link 3 Fig. 4). when it rotates. are joined together by pin joints. is complete. without links 4 and 5. At any given instant. Links 4 and 5 also provide the base on which the entire gripping mechanism is to be mounted. powered at the center. The whole mechanism now is a four bar linkage.2 Design of Grippers The design of the gripper is an essential part of the rope climbing robot. During the vertical climb. the gripper has to bear the entire weight of the robot and the payload. 3 Links with motor in place Two more pin joints and links are added to the ends of the backbone. 5 Gripping mechanism The four links. shown in fig. it causes link 3 to clamp or unclamp the rope held against the base. is the main consideration for the design of the gripper. The larger pulley is attached to the four bar mechanism. they are added to the backbone for reasons detailed above. The mechanism can be powered by means of two pulleys.Fig. (Fig. This. link 4 is fixed while link 5 slides along the fixed path or vice versa. whereas links 2 and 3 act as cranks. 4 Four bar mechanism (backbone) 2. 5. Even if the backbone. A motor is attached to the smaller pulley and through a transmission belt the rotation is conveyed to a bigger pulley. This mechanism is to be attached to links 4 and 5 of the backbone. 3 . The gripping mechanism can be approximated by another four-bar mechanism. Link 4 Link 5 Link 1 Link 2 Link 3 Fig. The new links are now constrained to move along a straight line or a fixed path which approximates the rope to be climbed (Frame). Links 4 and 5 are important as they act as sliders.
m. also indicated) will act in a direction so as to oppose the direction of slip. F= Reaction force T= Torque T F mg Direction of slip of robot Fig. l The parameters l. it is self-locking. making the mechanism self-locking. The angle a will determine if the gripper is self-locking or not. The more the payload. stronger will be the grip. m and a are important (Fig 6) as they determine the level of frictional force finally generated at the clamp. This ensures that the robot does not slip at any point of time. If the length of l is longer than that of m. the clamp will grip it tighter. the reaction force (friction. This force generates a torque about the pin joint such that it causes the clamping link to rotate in such a direction that the link clamps the rope under the action of its own weight. As soon as the robot begins to slip in the direction indicated. The gripper has to be designed such that.Pulley 2 (large) a Pulley 1 small Link 3 (clamping link) Fig. Hence every time the robot begins to slip. more leverage will be achieved at the point of contact. 6 Parameters a. More over this property allows us to put large amount of payloads on the robot. 7 Self locking gripper (during horizontal climbing when weight acts downwards) 4 . The figures 7 and 8 illustrate how the gripping mechanism becomes self locking.
below. It also shows how the three motors are bolted on to the backbone and the assembly of the worm and wormwheel arrangement. In figure 9. shows the complete design with the gripper bolted on to the backbone. The normal force from the rope will produce a torque such that it will unclamp the gripper.T F mg F= Reaction force T= Torque Direction of slip of robot Fig. 5 . Figure 10. 9 Guides 2.3 Design of guides Guides are needed in the design so that the entire weight of the robot does not fall on the clamping mechanism. the robot hangs on the rollers. two rollers are placed on either side of the clamp such that when the robot is suspended from a horizontal rope. A gear box (shown in figure 10) is required at the center because the worm has the tendency to dis-engage from the worm-wheel under large loads. The rollers will allow the rope to pass freely between the clamp (rolling friction is minimal and can be ignored) Guides Fig. 8 Self locking gripper (during vertical climbing) 2. shown below.4 Complete Design The design of the backbone and the gripper completes the mechanical design.
Here we a Start side motor1 and motor 2 (hold upper gripper and lower gripper) Halt Direction of motion down Release lower gripper Activate central motor in clock wise direction for 6 T seconds Up Release upper gripper Activate central motor in anti clock wise direction for T seconds Hold upper gripper . a rope or a wire. An electronic circuit was designed to control the Robo-sloth. However if it were to be designed such that the robot could shift between two wires close to each other.10 Final assembly 2. figure 11 shows the algorithm for motion. The programming is iconic and simple. the design of the control system for the Robo-sloth is fairly simple. the same task can be achieved by an RCX available in the Lego mind-storm kit. allowing the designer to make changes at will.Fig. the problem of controlling would become all the more difficult.5 Design of control system As opposed to many other bio-mimetic systems. There are many ways to implement this algorithm. For the present design. However. It has only to move back and forth on a well defined path.
17 Step 4. 14 Fig.3. 10) 7 . two kinds of motors are used in the robot. 19 (Duplication of Fig. the worm and worm-wheel are assembled into the gearbox (Fig 12. 13) Fig. 16. 16 Fig. 18 and 19) Fig. (Fig. the motors have to be bolted to the backbone. four links of the backbone are assembles with the gearbox in between. 13 Step 2. (Fig. (Fig. 15 Step 3. and the side motors are passed through channels with key slots cut in them. The central motor is passed through two rings which are bolted to link 2. the channels are then bolted to links 4 and 5 respectively. Fabrication and Assembly Step 1. 17) Fig. 14. The grippers have to be bolted on to links 4 and 5 respectively. 15) Fig. 12 Fig. grippers have to be assembled using shafts and bushes. 18 Fig.
Results Based on the principles and designs discussed in the previous section. Note the angle of the backbone. shaft and bush. The photographs shown below. the steps of motion are discussed further. The material chosen for its backbone and gripper was aluminium. the robot is ready and waiting for a command to move. The payload is restricted by the huge torques generated at the centre. It was tested many times and the performance was found to be highly repeatable. did not carry the power supply on board. the Robo-sloth was fabricated. The operational speed capacity of the sloth is 2. (almost 60 deg).7 m/min. The bending of the backbone indicates the motion of the robot.4. Note the angles of the gripper links. its breadth is 7 cm and the maximum height it can achieve is 14 cm. The slides show. The tip to tip length of the sloth is 62 cm. The weight of the sloth was measured to be 1. Also note the positions of the clamps. An improvement in the central joint and a stronger central motor would lead to an improvement in the payload capabilities. how successful the Robo-sloth has really been in mimicking the real sloth.7 kg and a payload of 5 kg was carried successfully. however. Brass had to be used when there was a mating between two parts. 20 Picture of Robo-sloth 8 . Having discussed the parameters. Step 1. they indicate opening and closing of the grippers. The parameters of the robot and the steps of motion are discussed in this section. Clamp 1 Side motor 1 Central motor Fig. The sloth is programmed to operate between backbone angles of 60 deg and 150 deg. In this state. both grippers are locked and backbone stationary (central motor switched off). The comparatively slow speed of operation was chosen intentionally to mimic the sloth. climbing begins at this angle. This indicates a 12 V battery can be carried on board. worm and worm-wheel. are slides from a movie that was made of the Robo-Sloth in motion. Aluminium was chosen because it is much lighter than other conventional metals available to us. they are both in gripped position. The current design. but the weight of the battery would have to be deducted from the payload weight. The power required for normal operation is 20 W and the sloth can run on a 12 V DC supply. E.g.
as in fig 22. At this point. 23 Fig. 27 In transition 9 . side-motor 1 is switched on and side-side-motor 2 switched off. The link continues sliding till the backbone straightens out. 26. 24 A similar performance is achieved when the robot is climbing vertical ropes (see Fig 25. 21. Central motor is switched on. This continues till the backbone reaches its other extreme position (almost 40 deg) (figure 24). 22 Step 3. link 5 begins to slide to the right. Note the position of the clamp in fig. the central motor is switched off. When the Central motor is switched on. when the extreme position is achieved. the respective gripping mechanism unclamps.27). Fig. the robot returns to its original state and the entire cycle begins again. Fig. Link 4 begins to slides to right (fig 24).Next. 22 (Almost 180 deg). note back. 21 Fig. Fig.Step 2. 25 Starting position Fig.bone angle in Fig. The gripper on the left unclamps (fig 23). 26 Extreme position Fig. when Side-motor 1 is switched off.
The design could be slightly modified to carry grippers and suction pads at the same time. Shigeo Hirose. Massa. Tokai University.htm . Robo-sloth would then become a really versatile climber. The kinematics. Wu and N. then the robot would have much more flexibility.. It already has a good payload capacity. Ghosh and Mallik.. boils down to two four-bar mechanisms: the backbone and the gripper. to shift between ropes and turning would become possible. it would have the capability of scaling walls as well. wall and the ceiling and shift to wires. Biomimetics Project: Robo Tuna. Conclusion The sloth bear’s motion was studied in detail and a kinematic model was made. 10 . Ayers. Affiliated East-West Press Private Limited. Preferably under suitable camouflaging packaging. D. C. silent and inconspicuous. Kato. Maintenance of high tension power lines could be another application. therefore it may carry the power supply and a camera onboard. The speed of operation was intentionally kept low so that while in operation the Robo-sloth could be slow. (1995) MIT ocean Engineering Testing Tank. being able to crawl on the ground. (2000) Lobster Robots. 3. Hostage situations in large buildings could use such a monitoring device. 2. If the gripper were to be replaced by suction pads. Oxford University Press. biology has proven through evolution that the mechanism of “the limb” is far more versatile than that of the wheel.edu/towtank/www/projects. The task of climbing a rope could have been performed efficiently with a wheel mechanism but the potential of the Robo-sloth or any other biomimetic device is much more. David Barrett. There is no limit to the range of maneuvers it may then perform. T. Maintenance of lift shafts and cables could also be done through such climbers. pipes and cables when required. [eds]. it could be used very effectively for monitoring buildings. after suitable approximations. 6. In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Aqua Biomechanisms. McGruer. A control system was designed such that the gripper and the backbone when operated in coordination would simulate the climbing motion of the sloth. J. Witting. N. http://web. If the hinge joints in the back bone of the Robo-sloth were replaced by ball-and-socket joints. References 1.mit. The self locking nature makes it very reliable. 4. To conclude. It could also crawl through AC ducts very easily. Olcott. Theory of mechanisms and machines 1998. J. These properties make the Robo-sloth an excellent spy.5. It would have the distinct advantage of being able to maneuver around corners. (1993) Biologically Inspired Robots (Snake-like Locomotor and Manipulator). Every attempt was made to reduce the weight of the robot so as to maximize the payload capacity.. The linkages were made self locking so that the robot would not slip under its own weight..
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