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Intelligent mechatronic systems

Research project P4/24 (Research action P4)


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Description :

Mechatronics offers a systems approach to intelligent-machine design, an integrated approach synergetically combining mechanics, control engineering, and computer science (concurrent engineering).

The evolution of intelligent machines has only just begun. A tremendous amount of research is still required to explore their behaviour and that of high-performance mechanisms high performance is related to high motion accuracy and fast response, in the presence of disturbances, such as friction. Intelligence implies autonomous behaviour, programming in natural language, self-learning and self-organisation. The project aim is to develop an integrated environment for designing intelligent mechatronic systems.

The project's rationale can be inferred from the structure of a mechatronic system. Such a system forms a hierarchy of different levels : the machine system level, the machine level and the module or component level. Each level contains a task programming module that materialises man-machine and machine-machine interactions. The motion controller consists of a sequence controller and a trajectory controller. The accuracy of the obtained motion is strongly influenced by interactions between the structural dynamics of the machine and control behaviour. Sensors and actuators are the senses and muscles of any mechatronic system. They are the elements through which is implemented the basic mechatronics paradigm, i.e. improved machine motion via a multidisciplinary systems approach. The project includes development of the required accurate and powerful modelling, identification and control methods.

Miniaturisation plays a major role in mechatronics. Various sources predict that the market for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) will grow faster, in the next decade, than the micro-electronics market. Some aspects of micro-mechatronics will be considered in this project, especially those related to the development of sensors and actuators for MEMS.

Coordination of modules in a machine and of machines in a machine system requires high-level control and programming strategies. Model-based control, based on stereo vision, and implicit programming methods, based on a behaviour-based approach, will be developed. Robot autonomy will be extended by developing active sensing strategies and by combining force and visual information.

The partnership is very complementary. The KUL/PMA project coordinator is a pioneer in robotics and mechatronics in Europe. The ULg/LTAS team is an authority in finite-element modelling of flexible multibody systems. The ULB/ASL team has extensive experience in active vibration control and walking robots. The UCL/PRM team is well known for its work on symbolic modelling of multibody systems. The KUL/ESAT team contributes its competence in computer vision, MEMS, control and identification.

Intelligent machines will have, in the future, a considerable impact on society. They can be expected to influence our behaviour in many ways. They will assist us at home, in our working environment, in health care, in our ways of transporting ourselves and goods; they will help us to clean up our polluted life environment, explore and exploit the earth, oceans, and space, dismantle decommissioned nuclear power plants, keep watch over industrial sites and private premises. Intelligent machines will be the slaves of the future, and hopefully they will contribute to creating a better world.


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