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Mechanisms and Robotics
The main objective of this Special Column is to bring together the new and innovative ideas, experiences and research results from researchers and practitioners on all aspects of Mechanisms and Robotics.
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  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Tie ZHANG, Caicheng WU, Yanbiao ZOU
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(4): 645-658. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0601-7

    As the traditional cross-coupling control method cannot meet the requirements for tracking accuracy and contour control accuracy in large curvature positions, an integrated control strategy of cross-coupling contour error compensation based on chord error constraint, which consists of a cross-coupling controller and an improved position error compensator, is proposed. To reduce the contour error, a PI-type cross-coupling controller is designed, with its stability being analyzed by using the contour error transfer function. Moreover, a feed rate regulator based on the chord error constraint is proposed, which performs speed planning with the maximum feed rate allowed by the large curvature position as the constraint condition, so as to meet the requirements of large curvature positions for the chord error. Besides, an improved position error compensation method is further presented by combining the feed rate regulator with the position error compensator, which improves the tracking accuracy via the advance compensation of tracking error. The biaxial experimental results of non-uniform rational B-splines curves indicate that the proposed integrated control strategy can significantly improve the tracking and contour control accuracy in biaxial contour following tasks.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Xuemin SUN, Yan-An YAO, Ruiming LI
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(1): 89-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-019-0567-5

    This study proposes a method of constructing type II generalized angulated elements (GAEs II) Hoberman sphere mechanisms on the basis of deployment axes that intersect at one point. First, the constraint conditions for inserting n GAEs II into n deployment axes to form a loop are given. The angle constraint conditions of the deployment axes are obtained through a series of linear equations. Second, the connection conditions of two GAEs II loops that share a common deployable center are discussed. Third, a flowchart of constructing the generalized Hoberman sphere mechanism on the basis of deployment axes is provided. Finally, four generalized Hoberman sphere mechanisms based on a fully enclosed regular hexahedron, arithmetic sequence axes, orthonormal arithmetic sequence axes, and spiral-like axes are constructed in accordance with the given arrangement of deployment axes that satisfy the constraint conditions to verify the feasibility of the proposed method.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Xiaodong JIN, Yuefa FANG, Dan ZHANG, Xueling LUO
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(1): 66-80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-019-0570-x

    The parallel spindle heads with high rotational capability are demanded in the area of multi-axis machine tools and 3D printers. This paper focuses on designing a class of 2R1T (R: Rotation; T: Translation) parallel spindle heads and the corresponding collaborative 5-axis manipulators with 2-dimension (2D) large rotational angles. In order to construct 2D rotational degrees of freedom (DOFs), a platform with 2D revolute joints is proposed first. Based on the constraint screw theory, the feasible limbs that can be connected in the platform are synthesized. In order to provide constant rotational axis for the platform, a class of redundant limbs are designed. A class of redundant 2R1T parallel spindle heads is obtained by connecting the redundant limbs with the platform and the redundant characteristics are verified by the modified Grübler-Kutzbach criterion. The corresponding 5-axis collaborative manipulators are presented by constructing a 2-DOF series translational bottom moving platform. The inverse kinematics and the orientation workspace as well as the decoupling characteristics of this type of 2R1T parallel spindle heads are analyzed. The results show that these manipulators have large 2D rotational angles than the traditional A3/Z3 heads and can be potentially used in the application of multi-axis machine tools and the 3D printers.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Haixiao LIU, Li LI, Zhikang OUYANG, Wei SUN
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(4): 610-621. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0596-0

    The design, fabrication, and testing of soft sensors that measure elastomer curvature and mechanical finger bending are described in this study. The base of the soft sensors is polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which is a translucent elastomer. The main body of the soft sensors consists of three layers of silicone rubber plate, and the sensing element is a microchannel filled with gallium-indium-tin (Ga-In-Sn) alloy, which is embedded in the elastomer. First, the working principle of soft sensors is investigated, and their structure is designed. Second, the relationship between curvature and resistance is determined. Third, several sensors with different specifications are built in accordance with the structural design. Experiments show that the sensors exhibit high accuracy when the curvature changes within a certain range. Lastly, the soft sensors are applied to the measurement of mechanical finger bending. Experiments show that soft curvature sensors can effectively reflect mechanical finger bending and can be used to measure the bending of mechanical fingers with high sensitivity within a certain working range.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Jintao LIANG, Zhengfeng MING, Peida LI
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(4): 600-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0597-z

    A primary permanent-magnet linear motor (PPMLM) has a robust secondary structure and high force density and is appropriate for direct-drive mechanical press. The structure of a four-side PPMLM drive press is presented based on our previous research. The entire press control system is constructed to realize various flexible forming processes. The control system scheme is determined in accordance with the mathematical model of PPMLM, and active disturbance rejection control is implemented in the servo controller. Field-circuit coupling simulation is applied to estimate the system’s performance. Then, a press prototype with 6 kN nominal force is fabricated, and the hardware platform of the control system is constructed for experimental study. Punch strokes with 0.06 m displacement are implemented at trapezoidal speeds of 0.1 and 0.2 m/s; the dynamic position tracking errors are less than 0.45 and 0.82 mm, respectively. Afterward, continuous reciprocating strokes are performed, and the positioning errors at the bottom dead center are less than 0.015 mm. Complex pulse trajectories are also achieved. The proposed PPMLM drive press exhibits a fast dynamic response and favorable tracking precision and is suitable for various forming processes.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Yanlin HAO, Yaobin TIAN, Jianxu WU, Yezhuo LI, Yan-An YAO
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2020, 15(3): 365-373. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0585-3

    This study presents two kinds of rolling robots that are able to roll by deforming their outer shapes with a single degree of freedom. Each robot is an essential multi-loop planar expandable linkage constructed by a concave outer loop and several inner parallelogram loops. In this study, the mechanical design of the robots is introduced. Dynamic rolling process is further analyzed on the basis of zero moment point method, and a morphing strategy is proposed to guarantee a stable dynamic rolling process. A novel passive rolling locomotion is also developed, which enables the robots to roll and stand on a slope. To verify the design, two prototypes are manufactured, wherein the dynamic and passive rolling locomotion are carried out.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Hui YANG, Hairong FANG, Yuefa FANG, Xiangyun LI
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2021, 16(1): 46-60. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0606-2

    A novel hybrid perfusion manipulator (HPM) with five degrees of freedom (DOFs) is introduced by combining the 5PUS-PRPU (P, R, U, and S represent prismatic, revolute, universal, and spherical joint, respectively) parallel mechanism with the 5PRR reconfigurable base to enhance the perfusion efficiency of the large-scale spherical honeycomb thermal protection layer. This study mainly presents the dimensional synthesis of the proposed HPM. First, the inverse kinematics, including the analytic expression of the rotation angles of the U joint in the PUS limb, is obtained, and mobility analysis is conducted based on screw theory. The Jacobian matrix of 5PUS-PRPU is also determined with screw theory and used for the establishment of the objective function. Second, a global and comprehensive objective function (GCOF) is proposed to represent the Jacobian matrix’s condition number. With the genetic algorithm, dimensional synthesis is conducted by minimizing GCOF subject to the given variable constraints. The values of the designed variables corresponding to different configurations of the reconfigurable base are then obtained. Lastly, the optimal structure parameters of the proposed 5-DOF HPM are determined. Results show that the HPM with the optimized parameters has an enlarged orientation workspace, and the maximum angle of the reconfigurable base is decreased, which is conducive to improving the overall stiffness of HPM.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Nianfeng WANG, Bicheng CHEN, Xiandong GE, Xianmin ZHANG, Wenbin WANG
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2021, 16(1): 163-175. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0605-3

    Crawling robots have elicited much attention in recent years due to their stable and efficient locomotion. In this work, several crawling robots are developed using two types of soft pneumatic actuators (SPAs), namely, an axial elongation SPA and a dual bending SPA. By constraining the deformation of the elastomeric chamber, the SPAs realize their prescribed motions, and the deformations subjected to pressures are characterized with numerical models. Experiments are performed for verification, and the results show good agreement. The SPAs are fabricated by casting and developed into crawling robots with 3D-printing connectors. Control schemes are presented, and crawling tests are performed. The speeds predicted by the numerical models agree well with the speeds in the experiments.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Hui LI, Ruiqin LI, Jianwei ZHANG
    Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 2021, 16(2): 353-362. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-020-0620-4

    This study proposes a gained switching-based discrete-time sliding mode control method to address the chattering issue in disturbed discrete-time systems, which suffer from various unknown uncertainties. Through the new structure of the designed reaching law, the proposed method can effectively increase the convergence speed while guaranteeing chattering-free control. The performance of controlling underactuated robotic systems can be further improved by the adoption of fuzzy logic to perform adaptive online hyper-parameter tuning. In addition, an underactuated robotic system with uncertainties is studied to validate the effectiveness of the proposed reaching law. Results reveal the dynamic performance and robustness of the proposed reaching law in the studied system and prove the proposed method’s superiority over other state-of-the-art methods.