Proceedings of ICETAETS 2008

DESIGN, FABRICATION AND TESTING OF VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL SURFACE TRAVERSING (VHST) ROBOT
Anil E. Magare1, Nitesh P. Yelve2, Amit U. Kulkarni3, Amit P. Kudva4, Dhananjay A. Ipparthi5 1 Graduate Student, Industrial & System Engineering Dept. (ISE), San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA 2 Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering Department, Fr. C. Rodrigues Institute of Technology, Vashi, Navi Mumbai, India 3 Graduate Engineer Trainee, Oil and Gas and Special Projects, Larsen and Toubro, Saki Vihar Road, Mumbai, India 4 Student, PGDBM, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies University, Vile Parle (W), Mumbai, India 5 Under Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Fr. C. Rodrigues Institute of Technology, Vashi, Navi Mumbai, India Email address: anilmagare@rediffmail.com, niteshpy@yahoo.co.in, amit_k_mech@yahoo.co.in, kudva_amit@yahoo.co.in, ipparthi@gmail.com ABSTRACT In the applications such as surveillance of sites, inspections of buildings, nuclear vessels, etc. where sending human beings might be difficult and more importantly dangerous, alternate solutions should be considered. Under these circumstances, wall climbing robots, are proven to be the best solution. However most wall climbing robots that exist today are robots that work on surface specific principles; as a result one robot can not easily be used for more complex textured surfaces. Hence, a successful attempt is made to design and fabricate a wall climbing robot VHST (Vertical and Horizontal Surface Traverser) which is cheap and has versatile wall traversing abilities. Working principle, model created in I-DEAS software, working model and advantages of this robot over other robots of its family are illustrated in this paper. Ability to traverse over various textures, sufficient payload capacity and cheaper technology, are the notable features of this robot. KEYWORDS Wall climbing robot, VHST 1. INTRODUCTION With the increase in the trend of using robots for the applications such as nuclear [1], space, under sea and other complicated applications where human intervention may not be possible and where safety and cost are important factors, the necessity of robots that traverse horizontal and vertical surfaces is felt. As a result various institutions have put in their efforts to develop such robots. Gecko [2] is a robot that uses small suction cups to stick to the wall. Also robots with adhesive feet are widely proposed [3]. But these have limitations of surface texture The VMRP is the only robot which has surface versatility along with the other advantage of ease of motion. A similar concept is applied for this wall climbing robot platform, the VHST. The VHST uses a motor-impeller arrangement to produce the adhesive force and a separate system for translation. The VMRP uses the concept of recirculation of air where the same air is recirculated in the cup. The suction force depends on the difference between the static and the dynamic pressure created as a result of the forced vortex in the cup. Instead, in the VHST the concept of direct suction (suck and throw) is used. The air is sucked from the underbelly of the robot and thrown out instead of being recirculated. The gap between the wall and the cup would be virtually sealed by a soft material cup which and are suitable for only particular surfaces. Another problem is that they employ reciprocating motion which is less efficient, slow and has complicated controls. During automation the programming becomes tougher due to the sheer complexity of the motion involved. Keeping these difficulties in view, a wall climbing robot VHST is designed and fabricated at Fr. C. Rodrigues Institute of Technology, Vashi, Navi Mumbai, which traverses on horizontal as well as vertical surfaces, with sufficient payload capacity. Present design is inspired from VMRP (VRAM Mobile Robot Platform) [4], made by Vortex HC which has a very versatile design and is able to adapt to a variety of surfaces ranging from glazed surfaces like glass to concrete or brick surfaces. As the mode of creating the suction force is different from the VMRP, the VHST is unique. 2. BASIC PRINCIPLE

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conforms to the shape of the wall in case of small irregularities which helps in maintaining the drop in pressure. 3. DESIGN AND SELECTION OF PARAMETERS 3.1 Basic Design of the Platform The concept of the need of a suction system is made clear in Fig.3.1 and Fig.3.2. They give the comparison between the dynamics of a normal moving robot and a wall climbing robot.

vehicle. Thus, this force exerted by the weight in the normal robot has to be replaced by the suction system of the robot. The suction system has to be large enough to produce reaction and the traction force at least equal to the weight of the robot. 3.2 Design Calculations 3.2.1 Suction Force Requirement Total weight = weight of the vehicle + payload If, µ is the coefficient of friction, then Friction force = µ × suction force Also, Friction force =Total weight to be carried Therefore, Suction force = Total weight to be carried / µ

Fig.3.1 Simple Robot

3.2.2 Torque Requirement Total Torque = force x radius of wheel Torque per wheel

= Total Torque / No of wheels

3.3 Parameter Selection by Testing 3.3.1 Test on the Suction System Tests are first carried out with a 100 Watt motor-flat impeller arrangement with a self weight of 0.5 kg. The suction force obtained by recirculation is noted as 1 kgf. The flat profile impeller of the pump is then replaced by a decreasing thickness impeller but the suction force is observed to decrease. Thus, it is concluded that the decreasing thickness impeller is not suitable for recirculation. During the experimentation it is also inferred that motor-impeller assemblies are typical. Through the tests it is established that using simple suction yields better suction force than the recirculation principle. As a result, with the same over all weight the payload capacity increases.
Fig.3.2 Wall Climbing Robot

In a normal robot, the weight of the vehicle keeps it on the ground. The weight causes reaction at the wheels and the corresponding traction force which is responsible for the motion of the robot. But in a wall climbing robot, the weight is not an assisting force but acts as a load on the

By studying the parameters involved and the geometry of the components, the rate of flow of air is calculated under suitable assumptions. Further the rise in the adhesive force by use of a frustum shaped cup is obtained. The formal calculations indicate a rise in the adhesion force by 70%.

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A 600 Watt Centrifugal pump is tested for direct suction. The recirculation of air is prevented by using the rubber cup to isolate the inlet and outlet of the pump. A suction force of 8 kgf is obtained using direct suction. Hence, a 600 watt Suction pump with direct suction is selected for the application. 3.3.2 Tests on the Translation Motors The use of stepper motors is first considered due to the fact that stepper motors have high holding torque. Also the motors are more compact than geared DC motors. The circuit and the program for the simultaneous control of the stepper motors are duly developed. But it is inferred that for the given load and space constraints stepper motors do not provide adequate torque and hence replaced by DC motors. Hence, 30 rpm geared DC motors are used for translation. 3.3.3 Tests on the Wheels and Tyres The use of wider tyres is proposed to ensure proper traction force on the wheels. This is very important for its movement on the wall. But it is observed that the wider tyres cause problems during the turning of the platform. The high slip angle causes the slipping of the tyres from the wheels. Thus wheels and tyres of lesser width are preferred. Hence, tyres of only 8mm thickness are used for the wheels. 4. SYSTEM COMPONENTS 4.1 Suction system The VHST uses the concept of direct suction (suck and throw). The air is sucked from the underbelly of the robot and thrown out. The suction pump of the VHST is shown in the Fig. 4.1. In the platform, the inlet of the pump is isolated from the outlet clearly by the use of the suction cup to prevent the recirculation of air and effect direct suction. 4.1.1 Motor The motor used for the suction system is a high power 600 watt AC motor. The speed of the motor under load is in excess of 25000 RPM. Although a DC motor can give high speeds, is not able to provide the torque required to produce the suction force. The speed of the DC motor also reduces rapidly with the increasing load.

Fig. 4.1 The suction System of the VHST

4.1.2 Impeller An advantage of the direct suction principle is that an impeller of decreasing thickness (shown in Fig. 4.2) can be used which are known to have better properties. The use of the same is tested with recirculation and the adhesive force is observed to decrease. The decreasing thickness profile leads to increase in the average distance of the impeller from the wall thus decreasing the velocity of the air. Consequently the difference in the static and dynamic pressures decreases, leading to lesser adhesive force. This problem is not observed in direct suction. The profile of the impeller and its sectional view are shown in the Fig.4.2 and Fig.4.3 respectively.

Fig.4.2 Sectional View of the Impeller

Fig.4.3 Profile of Impeller

4.1.3 Motor-Impeller Assembly The suction force obtained is observed to decrease when tests on different impellers are carried out with the same

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motor. Thus it is inferred that commercial motor-impeller pairs are typical. As the suction force obtained from the above is not as high as required for the robot, a 600 Watt motor-impeller arrangement is used. As the concept of recirculation is not involved, an impeller of varying cross-section is used. The recirculation of air is minimized by a rubber cup. The rubber cup creates a partially sealed low pressure envirnoment which in effect isolates the inlet and outlet from the impeller. The suction force obtained from the arrangement is measured to be 8 kgf which is enough to carry itself as well as any other small accessories it needs to carry. 4.2 Control system To control the four motors, in terms of orientation as well as speed control, microcontrollers are employed. The advantages of using microcontroller are: • The control of the platform is reduced to a total of just six push buttons including control of direction and speed • For the platform to remain at a particular location, its wheels would have to be locked. The use of microcontroller makes the locking of the wheels simpler,

At a later stage, it would be easier to make the robot autonomous or have it follow a prescribed route if required

The circuit consists of the following basic parts. 4.2.1 Microcontroller The microcontroller employed in the VHST is a Phillips 89C61RD2. It is a commonly used controller of the 8051 family of microcontrollers. It is shown in the Fig.4.4. 4.2.2 Driver The motors run on 12V DC; however the output of the microcontroller is 5V DC hence for amplification of current the chip L293D is used. The chip gets signals from the microcontroller and a 12 volt DC supply. The output from the driver goes to the two motor segments i.e. the right and the left segments as shown in the Fig.4.4. 4.2.3 Power Source The input for the circuit is a 12V DC taken from a rectifier. After further filtering, the microcontroller gets a voltage of 5 Volts DC. The AC motor used for suction however is powered independently from a regular 230V AC power supply.

Fig.4.4 Block Diagram of the Control System

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4.3 Translation System The translation motors and wheels are required for the basic translation of the platform. To make the translation system more efficient and reliable, a four wheel drive is devised. Each of the four wheels is powered by a separate motor. One of the sides of the translation system is shown in the Fig.4.5. The frame without the suction system is shown in the Figure 4.6.

Fig.4.5 Single Side of the Translation System

Fig.4.6 Frame of the VHST without Suction Pump

4.5 Assembly of the Components 4.3.1 Translation motors The motors used for translation of the robot-platform are geared DC motors running on a 12V supply at 30 rpm. The speed of the motor can be controlled i.e. varied appropriately with the use of microcontrollers. The torque provided by the motor at standard supply of 12V is 5kgfcm. This provides enough allowance above the required torque for variation of speed. 4.3.2 Wheels The wheels should be light yet sturdy. It is observed that a larger wheel base causes slipping of tyres from the wheel while turning; due to the large slip angles. A smaller wheel base ensures smaller slip angle and smooth turning. Also the wheels should be kept thin in width as this also adds to the resistance to the motion while turning. Hence aluminum wheels are manufactured. In order to grip glazed surfaces, a corrugated rubber tyre is mounted on the wheel. The Wheels are shown in the Fig.4.5. 4.4 Body The body of the robot platform comprises of the frame that holds the suction system as well as the translation motors together. The body of the robot is of utmost importance. It should be sufficiently rigid to carry the load on the robot, withstand the vibrations of the high speed motor used for suction and not deform under load. At the same time it should not unnecessarily add to the weight of the robot. So instead of a solid body a frame shaped body would prove beneficial. To cater to this Lsection Aluminum channels have been used. Its open design would also provide better cooling for the motors. The assembly of the various components is very easy and consumes very less time.

Fig.4.7 Dismantled View of the VHST

Fig.4.8 Complete Assembly of the VHST

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The simple design ensures that the number of components used, are minimum and thus the assembly is simplified. Even the frame consists of just four L-section channels joined together in such a way that they do not require any other connections for holding the translation motors as well as the main suction pump. The dismantled view of the VHST is shown in Fig.4.7 while its completed assembly is shown in Fig.4.8. 5. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION A robot platform is developed that can traverse over horizontal as well as vertical surfaces (the floor, walls and ceilings). This is done by using direct suction from a centrifugal pump. Direct suction provides better adhesion when compared to recirculation. The translation motion control system is developed with the help of microcontrollers for direction and speed control. The various stages of testing are shown in the Fig.5.1. • The robot-platform is tested on a wide variety of surfaces and it gave satisfactory performance on smooth surfaces such as glass as well as rough surfaces like the concrete surfaces, generally on the outside of buildings. Small irregularities which caused changes in distance between the cup and the wall did not cause hindrance in its operation. The weight carrying capacity of the platform is tested to be 750gms. This makes it possible to carry apparatus like cameras and small equipments. is observed is that due to the heating of components, prevents the robot platform to be used for long durations. However, this can be addressed with the use of slightly more specialized products. 6. CONCLUSION The amount of suction force required is calculated and different motor-impeller arrangements are tested and the suction force is measured. From the test results a suitable motor and impeller pair is selected. Inlet and outlet from the impeller is isolated to improve suction force. The circuit for control of motion of the robot has been designed and developed. The assembly of the platform has been completed and tested successfully. The suction force produced by VHST is amply independent of the texture of the surface. The designed robot platform has simplicity of operation and can be used for various applications with little or no change. Also owing to its elegant design continuous production methodology can be implemented which will make the product cheap. Using a frustum cup adhesion can be further improved. The robot can also be made autonomous by further developing the control system. REFERENCES [1] B.L. Luk, A.A. Collie, D.S. Cooke and S. Chen, Walking and Climbing Service Robots for Safety Inspection of Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessels Measurement and Control, Vol.39, No.2, 2006, 4347 [2] F. Cepolina, R.C. Michelini, R.P. Razolli and M. Zoppi., (2003), Gecko, A Climbing Robot for Wall Cleaning, 1st International Workshop on Advances in Service Robotics, Bardolino, Italia, 2003 [3] C. Menon , M. Murphy, M. Sitti, Gecko Inspired Surface Climbing Robots, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO), Shenyang, China, 2004, 431-436 [4] www.vortexhc.co

Fig.5.1 Stages of Testing of the VHST

The robot is able to make the transition from the ground to the wall by itself. The suction pump is kept OFF while on the ground. As the suction cup approaches the wall, the suction pump is turned ON. A point to be noted here is that the use of standardized, commercially available products has bound the extent of development. Another aspect that

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