Design and Control of Compliant Tensegrity Robots Through Simulation and Hardware Validation

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  • To better understand the role of tensegrity structures in biological systems and their application to robotics, the Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Lab at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA, has developed and validated two software environments for the analysis, simulation and design of tensegrity robots. These tools, along with new control methodologies and the modular hardware components developed to validate them, are presented as a system for the design of actuated tensegrity structures. As evidenced from their appearance in many biological systems, tensegrity (‘tensile–integrity’) structures have unique physical properties that make them ideal for interaction with uncertain environments. Yet, these characteristics make design and control of bioinspired tensegrity robots extremely challenging. This work presents the progress our tools have made in tackling the design and control challenges of spherical tensegrity structures. We focus on this shape since it lends itself to rolling locomotion. The results of our analyses include multiple novel control approaches for mobility and terrain interaction of spherical tensegrity structures that have been tested in simulation. A hardware prototype of a spherical six-bar tensegrity, the Reservoir Compliant Tensegrity Robot, is used to empirically validate the accuracy of simulation.
  • Keywords: planetary exploration, tensegrity, compliant robotics, soft robotics, central pattern generators, bioinspired locomotion
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  • Caluwaerts, K., Despraz, J., Işçen, A., Sabelhaus, A. P., Bruce, J., Schrauwen, B., & SunSpiral, V. (2014). Design and control of compliant tensegrity robots through simulation and hardware validation. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 11(98), 20140520. doi:10.1098/rsif.2014.0520
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  • 11
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  • 98
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  • This research was supported by the European Commission’s FP7 programme under grant agreement no. 248311—AMARSi and the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. K.C. was supported by a PhD fellowship of the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO). Support also came from NSF Graduate Research Fellowship no. DGE1106400, and from NASA Prime Contract no. NAS2–03144 awarded to the University of California, Santa Cruz, University Affiliated Research Center.
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