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Advanced mechatronic systems (AMS)

Research project P5/06 (Research action P5)

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Description :

This AMS proposal aims at providing an integrated design optimisation and control framework to support the development of a new generation of mechatronic systems as required by the ongoing technological and societal paradigm shifts.

The most salient feature of a mechatronic system (also called: a machine) is that it generates motion. A machine hence consists of a mechanical structure (distributed flexible multi-body system) of varying complexity. This structure is set in motion by appropriate actuators through motion transmission mechanisms. The resulting motions are measured by means of sensor systems. These can be proprioceptive (encoders, gyroscopes) or exteroceptive (vision systems). A task is transmitted to the machine through some kind of human/machine interface (task programming system), like e.g. haptic interface, programming-by-demonstration interface, interactive autonomy in wheel chairs, etc. The deviation from the programmed motion, detected by the sensors is eliminated by an appropriate motion controller. Salient features of such controller are robustness, accuracy, bandwidth, etc. Controllers can be purely model-based, behaviour-based or of a mixed nature.

As these machines are of an inherently interdisciplinary nature, the mechatronics paradigm is adopted as a working method in the project. This is basically a concurrent engineering design approach where the machine is to be considered as a multidisciplinary system where all aspects have to be optimised simultaneously. The project is subdivided into work packages, each of them featuring outstanding research problems in the particular sub-areas and/or integration aspects: modelling, identification and control, optimisation, microsystems, nanotechnology, human/machine interface, dealing with complex environments. Optimisation and multidisciplinarity are at the core of the proposal. Generic demonstrators have been defined; they are meant to illustrate the superiority of the generic mechatronic design approach with respect to the present state of the art.

The project themes are selected taking into account the results of previous IAP-projects and in terms of interesting generic outstanding research issues.

WP1 contains research on modelling, control and optimisation of mechatronic systems. The symbolic modelling framework Robotran, developed in earlier phases will be extended to include multidisciplinary system elements. Special emphasis will be given to modelling of vibro-acoustic systems at intermediate frequencies, a still unsatisfactorily solved problem. WP1 is further targetting at designing robust controllers for distributed multibody systems with variable geometry, in the presence of strong (variable geometry) and weak (friction) nonlinearities. Optimisation occupies a central place in WP1. There, the structural and the control models are merged, resulting in an integrated optimisation framework.

WP2 deals with the development of intelligent (fluid power based) micro-actuators with high power density for use in micromechatronic systems, e.g. for robotic endoscopes.

WP3 tackles some mechatronic issues of nano-robotics. Particularly the problem of handling and/or assembly of nano-structures using a haptic interface between the operator and an atomic force microscope will be considered.

In WP5 some important problems of high-level human/machine-interaction are tackled, such as programming by demonstration, machining of complex surfaces, and shared autonomy. Furthermore, methods will developed for making the mechatronic system deal with complex environments (geometry, photometry), e.g. through active vision, through behaviour based control, etc. They are meant to make the (mobile) mechatronic system behave more autonomously in complex, unstructured, also non-industrial, environments, like living or meeting rooms, in order to realise the ultimate dream of the ‘disappearing’ and ‘ubiquitous’ machine, able to live in harmony with and alongside people.

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