Posts Tagged ‘Manipulator’

1985 – “Aquarobot” Aquatic walking robot – (Japanese)

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An early Artist's conception from the late 1970's. Source: Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction by Jasia Reichardt, 1978.

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Source: Field Test of Aquatic Walking Robot for Underwater Inspection
Junichi Akizono, Senior Research Engineer Mineo Iwasaki, Chief of Robotics Laboratory Takashi Nemoto, Member of Robotics Laboratory Osamu Asakura, Member of Robotics Laboratory – Machinery Division
Port and Harbour Research Institute, Ministry of Transport 1-1, Nagase 3-chome, Yokosuka, Japan 239
Summary
Aquatic walking robot named "AQUAROBOT" has been developed. Main purpose of the robot is to carry out underwater inspecting works accompanied with port construction instead of divers.
This robot has two main functions. One is the measurement of the flatness of rock foundation mound for breakwaters by the motion of the legs while walking. The other is the observation of underwater structure by TV camera.
AQUAROBOT is six-legged articulated "insect type" walking machine. Operation is fully automatic because this robot is so-called intelligent mobile robot. The working depth is up to 50m.
AQUAROBOT has an ultrasonic transponder system which is long base line type as a navigation device.    It also has an underwater TV camera with ultrasonic ranging device at the end of the manipulator on the body.
Through the field tests, the performance of the robot was proved to be sufficient for the practical use.
Test results are as follows.
Walking speed is 6.5m/min. on the flat floor in the test pool and 1.4m/min. on the irregular rubble mound in the sea. In the case of navigation, the positioning accuracy is within ±21cm.    The robot can measure the flatness of rubble mound by the motion of the legs with the same accuracy as divers.
key words: walking robot, underwater application, inspection work.

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1. Introduction
The underwater inspection works accompanying port construction are carried out by manual labor of divers. However, the efficiency and safety of underwater activity are not sufficient because underwater condition is austere.    Increasing risks and lower working efficiency of port construction work at deeper sea area and shortage of divers make the situation worse. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the underwater inspection robot.
The robot which carries out the underwater inspection work taking the place of divers should have good stability, positioning ability and the ability to move on uneven seabed. Compared with free-swimming type, the bottom-reliant type is good for this purpose. We selected walking type, not wheel type or crawler type or Archimedean screw type, as the underwater Inspection robot.
We started this project from 1984 and have made 3 models up to now. The 1st one made in 1985 is an experimental model for overground test. The 2nd one made in 1987 is a prototype. The 3rd one made in 1989 is light-weight type.
In this paper, the walking test of prototype in the sea is mentioned.

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2.Outline of AQUAROBOT
2.1 Hardware
AQUAROBOT is six-legged articulated "insect type" walking machine.    Each leg has three articulations, and they are driven semi-directly by DC motors which are built inside the leg. The articulations are mechanically independent to each other.
All the motions are controlled by a tiny lap-top micro computer (CPU 80286), which makes the robot be able to walk on irregular rough terrain. The measurement of the profiles of seabed is possible by recording the motion of the end of the legs while it walks.
AQUAROBOT can walk in any direction without changing its quarter and can turn within its own space. Each leg is equipped with a tactile sensor on its end and there are two inclinometers, a gyrocompass, and a pressure sensor in the body.
The prototype model has 150cm legs and weighs 857kg. It can be operated 5Om deep in the sea. A manipulator for underwater TV camera with ultrasonic ranging device is mounted on the body. The robot is connected by optical/electric cable of 100m long to the control unit on mother ship.
Prototype has an ultrasonic transponder system which is long
base line type as a navigation device.    It also has an underwater TV camera with ultrasonic ranging device at the end of the manipulator on the body.
Main dimensions and the positions of the sensors are shown in Fig.2 and the specifications in Table 1.
5.1    Description of the Robot System
The Port and Harbour Research Institute has constructed three models of six legged underwater walking robots. This series of experiments has been conducted on the first model. The AQUAROBOT hardware system consists of a main body and six radially symmetrically located legs. Each leg, made of anti-corrosive aluminum, has three degrees of freedom. The axis of the first joint is vertical and those of the second and third joints are horizontal. A disk-shaped foot is connected through the bottom limb of a leg through a passive spherical joint. One tactile sensor is attached to each foot. Each side of the hexagonal body is 30 centimeters long. The limbs of a leg are 14, 25, and 60 centimeters in length respectively. The motors for the second and third joints are mounted inside the limbs and, through harmonic gears and bevel gears, directly drive the limbs. This design allows their weights to be distributed over legs and makes water-tight structures easy. The powers of the first, second, and third motors are 80,120, and 120 watts respectively. The total weight of AQUAROBOT in the air is 280 kilograms.
The control computer is an NEC PC-9821Xt/C1OW based on a Pentium/90MHz CPU. The software system was written in C++. The sampling time is 50 milliseconds.

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Computer simulation.

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The project started in 1984 and made 3 models.


See other early Underwater Robots here.


1984-93 – Undersea Robot Concept – ART Project (Japanese)

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The ART Project’s Nuclear Inspection Centaur Robot

After the earthquake last year and the resulting damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant, observers criticized Japan’s lack of preparedness. In particular, many felt that the Japanese robotics sector’s focus on expensive humanoids had squandered time and resources better spent on more specialized robots.  However, this isn’t totally accurate.  The Japanese government, corporations, and universities have been working on robots for just this sort of problem for decades.  Back in the 1980's the Japanese government invested 20 billion JPY (still less than $100 million dollars at the time) into a massive eight-year program to build three types of advanced robots for hazardous environments.

The ART (Advanced Robotics Technology) Project had goals that were too big for any one institution to achieve, so a consortium called ARTRA (Advanced Robotics Technology Research Association) was formed. Financed and controlled by the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, ARTRA brought two major government organizations, the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory (MEL; now known as AIST) and the Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL), together with 18 corporations under the same banner, along with the support of academia.

The ART robots were designed for three major areas: nuclear plants, undersea oil rigs, and a third for disaster prevention in refineries.

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The undersea robot looked like one of the pods from 2001: A Space Odyssey, with multiple arms and manipulators. It would have to function 600 feet underwater, in tides moving at 2 knots, and in very poor visibility.  Finally, the disaster response robot would put out fires with a hose, move on six legs (each ending with a wheel) and had an arm for closing valves. It would have to work for thirty minutes despite temperatures in the range of 400 degrees (750 degrees Fahrenheit).


For more on the 1984-93 Japanese ART Project, see here.

See other early Underwater Robots here.


1985 – Nuclear Maintenance Robot “AMOOTY” – Tokyo Uni / Toshiba (Japanese)

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1985 – Nuclear Inspection Robot "AMOOTY" climbing stairs in a mock-up of a nuclear power plant.

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Before AMOOTY there was MOOTY. No manipulator arm here, just vision and star-wheel propulsion.

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Text Source: Inside The Robot Kingdom, Frederik L. Schodt, 1988

If cleverly designed, a robot on modified wheels or tank treads can still have considerable maneuverability. Separate from the ART project, three of the ARTRA members—Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and Hitachi—have been building their own mobile robots for nuclear power plants. Hitachi and Mitsubishi have in the past produced experimental models with modified tank treads that either bend in the middle or reconfigure themselves for stair climbing. Toshiba has created a wheel-based design.
Near Yokohama, inside a mockup of a nuclear reactor that contains stairs, valves, and ladders, Toshiba has experimented with traditional crawler-type robots and even a robot that does nothing but climb ladders. Its current pride and joy is AMOOTY, partly funded by MITI money. AMOOTY (an acronym based on the names of the six men at the University of Tokyo who designed it) is a semi-"intelligent" robot with a vision system enabling it to navigate—a TV camera allows it to recognize specially placed symbols in the reactor and a laser beam measures distance. Instead of a traditional industrial-robot-style manipulator, AMOOTY uses one that looks like an elephant trunk with nine degrees of freedom—two more than the human arm.
The most novel aspect of the AMOOTY robot is its means of locomotion. Inspired, perhaps, by the old stair-climbing carts used by Venetian porters, each "wheel" is in the shape of a clover, with each "petal" of the clover containing a smaller, independent wheel. On flat ground the clovers do not turn—only the smaller wheels do. To climb a staircase, or cross over an obstacle, however, the larger clovers themselves are rotated. AMOOTY still has many problems. Its power is supplied by a cable, its speed is too slow, and it is too heavy and large. But it is a stable design. When engineers in a remote command room (watching through television cameras, with robot positions in the reactor displayed on computer screens as both outline and three-dimensional shapes) put AMOOTY through its paces, the "wheeled" robot lurches right up the stairs.
Professor Hiroyuki Yoshikawa of the University of Tokyo Mechanical Engineering Department led the team that worked with Toshiba to design AMOOTY. "In Japan we tend to neglect research on the basic purpose of our design," he says. "My specialty is design theory, and I consider design to be the science of function. For AMOOTY, for example, we used functional analysis to research the concept of maintenance in nuclear reactors, and came up with a system of locomotion and an arm that does not exist in nature."


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The manipulator arm had 9 degrees-of-freedom.

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Brief technical specs of AMOOTY.

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Interesting comment by Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, one of AMOOTY's developers:

Despite Japan’s leadership in robotics, nuclear plant operators assumed that robots would not be needed to deal with an accident. The Times quoted Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, an engineer and a former president of the University of Tokyo, as saying, "Instead, introducing them would inspire fear, they said. That’s why they said that robots couldn’t be introduced."

Even though Yoshikawa, a robotics expert, was among those who built a prototype called Mooty that was designed to handle high levels of radiation and navigate rubble that might be expected as a result of a nuclear accident, the robots were not put into production. Consequently, after the Fukushima accident, Japan had to rely "an emergency shipment of robots from iRobot, a company in Bedford, Mass., more famous for manufacturing the Roomba vacuum. On Friday, Tepco deployed the first Japanese-made robot, which was retrofitted recently to handle nuclear accidents, but workers had to retrieve it after it malfunctioned."

Yoshikawa told the Times that Japan’s rejection of robots designed to respond to nuclear accidents "was part of the industry’s overall reluctance to improve maintenance and invest in new technologies."

Source: Powermag

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The only English written paper I found on AMOOTY is dated  1985. I don't  know how accurate the caption dates are on MOOTY (1978) and AMOOTY (1980).

T. Arai, H. Yoshikawa, M. Takano, S. Ozono, G. Odawara, T. Miyoshi, K. Shimo, and T. Mikami. A stair-climbing robot for maintenance: "AMOOTY". In Proc. of the Seminar on Remote Handling Equipment for Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities, pages 444-456, 1985.

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AMOOTY was further advanced by Toshiba and now called "AIMARS" – (Advanced Intelligent MAintenance Robot System).


See other early Teleoperators and Industrial Robots here.

See other early Walking-wheels here.


1958-62 – “Beetle” Mobile Manipulator – G.E. Corp. (American)

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1958-62 – "Beetle" Mobile Manipulator.


Background Information:

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Popular Mechanic's (Sep 1956) drawing made by Frank Tinsley from designs by Lee A. Ohlinger of Northrop Aviation, Inc. of a robot mechanic for the proposed atomic-powered airplane, a star-crossed project that stumbled through 10 years and $500,000 without ever getting off the ground.

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General Mills was one company that patented a 'Vehicle-Mounted Manipulator' in 1958 as its proposal for atomic-powered aircraft maintenance, amongst other purposes.

Publication number US3043448 A
Publication date Jul 10, 1962
Filing date Sep 19, 1958
Inventors Melton Donald F
Original Assignee Gen Mills Inc


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Source: Missiles and Rockets, Volume 9, 1961

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In 1961, GE's Beetle was under construction. The above few pictures show the model that was built beforehand.


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World's Biggest Robot By Martin Mann
Fix an atomic rocket engine? Clean up spills of radioactivity? Rescue H-bomb victims? That's what the Beetle is for
 
THAT monster glaring at you from the left is the biggest robot ever made. It weighs 170,000 pounds in its double-thick rubber treads. It can punch its claw hand through a concrete wall or gently stretch stainless-steel arms to pluck an egg off the top of a house. 
There's a man inside. Safe within the lead-and-steel cab, he can work where no unarmored man could live -in the deadly radiation that atomic energy the most fearsome as well as the most promising invention of the century.    
He could roll right up to the atomic engine of a space rocket and delicately maneuvering those 16-foot arms, make adjustments. Or he could replace a broken part in the atomic boiler of a power plant. Or haul the fatally hot debris of a nuclear accident away to the burying ground. If H-bombs struck he could dash into the destruction zone to rescue injured people and scrape away the worst of the fallout dust. 
That's what this bizarre machine, named the Beetle, can do. When PS Chief Photographer Bill Morris and I first saw the Beetle, it wasn't doing anything but sitting on a hangar floor. They couldn't start the engine.

Beetle is first of a family of robots that will handle the hot jobs of the atomic age

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Robot with a bellyache. In four days it operated seldom, and then it limped more than ran. There was difficulty with the degassing circuit. A plug popped and hydraulic fluid squirted out (a dedicated engineer, Dutch-boy-like, stuck his finger in the hole). A diode blew, immobilizing one arm (a welder had dropped a tool into the control chassis). The auxiliary generator pooped out (brush trouble). It seemed that short circuits had their own short circuits (after all, there are 400 miles of wiring in the thing).
Such bugs are standard equipment in any complex new machine. They were cleaned up in a furious week of round- the-clock troubleshooting. But these setbacks were only the culmination of troubles that dogged the Beetle from the beginning. It was originally designed to be a robot mechanic for the atomic-powered airplane, a star-crossed project that stumbled through 10 years and $500,000 without ever getting off the ground. So the Beetle is an orphan. The Air Force, which paid $1,500,000 for it, still isn't sure exactly what it will be used for. Yet the need for machines of this type is so certain that the orphan is already fathering a whole family of newer robots. The next models, now on the drafting boards, will bear only a family resemblance to Papa Beetle. They'll be smaller and lighter, so they can be air-lifted where needed. Most will be remote-controlled–without a man inside you don't need all that heavy radiation shielding.  
The Beetle does carry a man. That makes it more versatile. But it also requires some of the most elaborate engineering ever lavished on any ground vehicle.

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It looks like a tank because the chassis is reworked from an Army M42 40-mm. gun carrier. A 500-hp supercharged Continental six speeds it along roads at 10 m.p.h., but there's also an electrical drive by which it creeps 15 feet per minute. It could wrench the concrete all off a test cell without grunting hard–drawbar pull is 85,000 pounds.
The cab, however, is nothing like a tank turret. It not only turns around and around, but moves up and down 15 feet on four stainless-steel legs (built like hydraulic auto lifts). These movements are precise but slow, for that cab weighs 50 tons.
The walls are made of foot-thick lead covered inside and out with half inch steel plates. The entrance hatch is a tight-fitting cork of lead directly over the operator's head. It alone weighs 7 1/2 tons.  
The hatch offers the only way in or out.

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Understandably, there are four separate mechanisms for raising it: the regular hydraulic system, the battery-powered hydraulic pump, a hand pump on the operator's left armrest, and hand pump outside the cab.
Even with the four independent emergency outs, the operators seat is still no place for a guy with claustrophobia. It's eerily  oppressive even when the hatch is wide open (I tried it). Those 50 tons of lead and steel form the most effective suit of armor ever wrapped around a single man. It cuts down atomic rays by 3,000 times. That means the operator could put in a full day's work where the radiation level was 3,000 roentgens per hour. Unshielded  exposure to such intense radiation would  probably kill him after 10 minutes.  
The man who will seal himself inside this massive machine is young, flamboyant Randall Scraper, who comes from Indiana, but is always called Tex. Scrapper is one of the most skilful of an elite corps of technicians, the professional manipulators.

These specialists perform the same work as any repairman–taking machines apart and putting them back together again. But there is one big difference: The manipulators work on machines too "hot" to get close to. They cannot touch their work or even their tools. Everything must be done at long range with mechanical arms.

No sense-no feeling. The arm is a stainless-steel boned, electrically muscled copy of human equipment: shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand. The joints are superhuman: They spin around and around as well as bend. The hand is usually a two-fingered claw that can grasp and manoeuver parts or tools: but it can be snapped off and replaced by any of any specialized types–a socket-tipped finger, for instance.

The steel hand cannot feel, however, and that is a serious loss.You can't tell whether you are crushing something or holding it too loosley it will fall. (Dropping a nut or screw seldom matters: spilling a can of radioactive material could tie things up for weeks.)

Working with mechanical arrms is like playing the nickel-in-the-slot claw machine at an amusement park–and snaring the toy compass every time. It takes unusually sensitive coordination as well as icily calm concentrating–outwardly at least. Tex Scraper steadily chews gum and cigars, often both at once. But he possesses the supreme patience to devote eight hours to removing one nut from a bolt.

"I can do that,: Scraper drawls. "because I turn my ears off. People are always watching, trying to help. 'A little to the right,' they tell me. Well, it may be their right and my left. So I've taught myself to pay no mind. I don't even hear them."

The Beetle is worth its cost solely to take Scraper and his mechanical arms up close to the hot nuts and bolts. He gets safety and a clear view of the work (not perfect, yet better than television). But he pays for these advantages with total isolation.

The operator is sealed tight a mummy. There is barely space to wiggle a foot; standing or stretching is out of the question. His only direct connection to the outside world is an air intake.  
(The duct zigzags, like the entrance to a photographic darkroom so that radiation cannot "shine" in. Special filters are unnecessary because the air itself does not become radioactive.)    
A three-ton air conditioner keeps Scraper cosy (72 to 76 degrees, 60-percent humidity) even if the temperature outside plummets to 25 below or flames to 130 above zero. He talks to base by radio (two separate transmitter-receivers) or public-address system.    
There's even a microphone out front so that he can listen to the engine.

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A room with a view. Even more elaborate are the arrangements for looking out.
To go with the windows, there are two pairs of binoculars on swinging mounts; with them Scraper can read the scale of a standard micrometer gauging parts many feet distance.
There is a retracting, submarine-style periscope that rotates and tilts.
Finally there is closed-circuit TV. The screen sits between his legs. One camera is clipped to the cab, like a pencil in a man's breast pocket. It can be picked up and moved around by the mechanical arms. Two fixed cameras point to the rear so that Scraper can see what's going on behind him–outside rear-view mirrors are impractical.
The Beetle's cab even includes a few luxury accessories: a comfortable, power adjusted chair, ash tray, lighter. Most important of all, perhaps, is an oxygen bottle. If absolutely everything went wrong, it could sustain Scraper for eight hours. Presumably that would give time to haul the machine out of danger, cut the cab open, and free him.

Source: Popular Science, May 1962.


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Built by Jered Industries in Detroit for General Electric's Nuclear Materials and Propulsion Operation division, the Beetle was designed for the Air Force Special Weapons Centre, initially to service and maintain a planned fleet of atomic-powered Air Force bombers. According to declassified Air Force reports, work began on the 'Beetle' in 1959, and it was completed in 1961.

It has also been said [Halacy, "The Robots Are Here!", 1965] that the Beetle was built for NASA's "Project Rover", a nuclear rocket development program.


 Life Magazine, 4 May 1962 had a brief article and a couple of pictures of the Beetle.

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Beetle showing its versitility by putting an egg on a spoon. Not bad given the size and types of grippers, and lack of tactile feedback to the operator.

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A startled look as the Beetle is spotted in the make-up mirror.

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President Kennedy (back to camera) having a look.

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The Beetles' Arms and Hands

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The General Mills arm used in the Beetle is very similar to this arm descibed by patent US3247978. Karl Neumeier was one of General Mills engineers.

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The two-fingered hand is also described in the patent and is most likely the same if not very similar to that used on the Beetle's manipulator arms.

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General Mills Hook-and-anvil hand. {Image says PaR Systems, which was a spin-off from General Mills]

 

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The General Mills logo on the manipulator arm.

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In the Life Magazine article mentioned above, Getty-LIFE have a lot of images from that photo shoot. They appear in the photo gallery below.

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See other early Teleoperators and Industrial Robots here.


1960 onwards – Miscellaneous Mobile Manipulator Arms

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1960c – Lee Mobile Manipulator.

[I presently have no other information on this mobile manipulator.]

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The Lee Model 6A Manipulator was used on the mobile platform.

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1974 Centaure Mobile Manipulator (French).centaure-french-x640


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The CEE-VEE Remote Mobile Vehicle with crane-like manipulator


See other early Space Teleoperators here.