Posts Tagged ‘Patent’

1960 – Cycloidal Propulsion Omnidirectional Drive – Howard Hansen (American)


CLARK'S experimental cycloidal machine. Two non-drive rear wheels counter torque.
Source: Mechanix Illustrated, April 1963.
A revolution in land vehicles may come from this new invention which can provide perfect maneuverability.
PUT a pencil at the top of a sheet of paper and start making loops—as if you were practicing a capital O, As you make the loops, draw your arm slowly down the page. Note the trail you are leaving—like a spring that's been stretched out, Actually, the curve you are drawing is called a "cycloid" and what you have just done is to trace the path of a new propulsion system that may revolutionize land vehicles,
What we're talking about is a wheeled or castered vehicle that is the ultimate in maneuverability. It can move in any horizontal direction without steering through a turning radius. In addition, it needs no brakes, transmission, axles or steering system, One control stick does the whole job.
Dubbed the Omni-Drive, it was developed by the Clark Equipment Co, Clark's first unit is an experimental battery-powered single-rotor job with two non-drive trailing wheels to counter torque. The production model—probably available next year—will have two rotors so that no torque reacting trail wheels will be necessary.
How does the Omni-Drive work?
The experimental rig consists of an under-carriage (rotor) on which three casters have been mounted 120 degrees apart, When the caster wheels are angled so that they merely revolve in a circle (see diagram at lower right) the Omni-Drive has no horizontal movement, This braking action is accomplished by centering the single control stick.
When the control stick is moved (in any direction desired) the caster wheels turn at an angle to the braking circle. Now, as the undercarriage continues to revolve, the wheels "swing out" and "push back" in cycloidal loops—just as your pencil did, The upper platform (which, of course, doesn't revolve) then moves—as your arm did when you drew the looping trail down the paper,
To visualize better the operation of this unique vehicle, keep in mind that the rotor never stops revolving while the Omni-Drive is in operation, But movement of the upper platform and operator take place only when the wheels are angled so they move outwardly away from the center as they traverse half of their circle, and inwardly toward the center as they traverse the other half of their circle,
Clark's production Omni-Drive—the two-rotor job—will be able to do much more than the experimental single-rotor rig, It will, for instance, be able to turn on its own axis, The single stick will control velocity, direction, thrust, braking and steering. Remember, this is a vehicle in which there is no torque transmission between engine and wheels. The engine—battery, gas, electric or whatever—merely turns the revolving undercarriage. Add to this the fact that this device brakes while the wheels are still turning and you begin to see its unique possibilities.
This amazing vehicle is the brainchild of Michael Chucta and Jerome Susag, Clark engineers, and Cmdr, Howard Hansen, USN, who developed the application of cycloidal propulsion to land vehicles while he was seeking to invent a maneuverable lawn mower!
Clark foresees wide applications of its Omni-Drive in materials handling vehicles. But in addition it is expected to find many uses in gantry cranes, missile handling machines and TV cameras.
—Larry Edwards


CYCLOIDAL curve made by pen on paper—a continuous looping in a straight path.


PROPOSED application in a single-rotor maneuverable machine for towing aircraft.


BRAKING is accomplished when wheels describe perfect circle and vehicle stops.


UNDERSIDE of working model. All linkages are connected to a single control stick.



Source: THE HILLSDALE DAILY NEWS, Monday, January 14, 1963
Vehicle Shows New Type Of Propulsion
DETROIT (AP) — A new type of land propulsion was to be demonstrated and discussed today at the opening of the 1963 convention of the Society of Automotive Engineers.
With it, you can drive a vehicle in any direction — even up and down, like a bird. It conceivably could some day give you an automobile you could edge into a parking place—sideways.
It is called "Cycloidal Land Propulsion" and it grew from a Navy officer's search for a power lawn mower he wouldn't have to haul and tug to mow around 40 trees on a place he'd rented in Falls Church, Va., in 1958.
It needs no brakes or clutch or transmission or axles.
. . .
The inventor is Cmdr. Howard C. Hansen, now commanding officer of the Navy's Patrol Squadron 49, and he told the engineers today how Cycloidal Land Propulsion grew from his desire for a lawn mower that would power itself circularly around those Virginia trees.
Clark Equipment Co. is adopting Hansen's propulsion method to its industrial trucks (the kind that shuttle crates and boxes hither and yon in warehouses and factories.
. . .
Michael Chucta, engineer in the advanced products section of Clark's industrial Truck Division at Battle Creek, says a vehicle utilizing such propulsion "is remarkably simple to manufacture" and foresees its use by various special job vehicles.
It isn't yet ready for your automobile, or vice versa, and may never be. Top speed of a vehicle thus propelled presently is calculated at 10 miles per hour, and it multiplies the bumps.
Cycloidal Land Propulsion utilizes wheels — one to any number, but three currently is considered the most satisfactory alignment. They are mounted (something like casters on a dresser to a circular undercarriage that is whirled around by the vehicle's power plant.
. . .
The wheels bite outward and inward from center at various points on their circular rotation to give a vehicle propulsion.
Steered to run in a true circle they halt the vehicle and act as brakes, since the tires would have to be dragged along if it were moved while the wheels were running in a true circle. It stops itself thus.
In forward movement, the wheels point outwardly as they traverse half the circle, and inwardly, toward the center, as they traverse the other half.
. . .
A Naval aviator, Hansen designed his original cycloidal or omnidirectional vehicle for control with a stick similar to that used in an airplane. The vehicle moves in whatever direction you move the stick, and the further you move the stick the faster it goes in that direction.
A vehicle using only three wheels (or one revolving cycloidal unit) requires a trailing pair of wheels attached to the rear of the vehicle to absorb torque and keep the vehicle from tending to spin in the direction the whirling wheels are spinning.
But Chucta told his fellow engineers that a vehicle using two units, each spinning in opposite directions, needs no other wheels to remain stable and translate (which means move in any direction).
Such a vehicle also can yaw, throw one end around to where the other was, or swing its front or rear to and fro.


Caption: Three men, from left to right, Jerome R. Susag, Michael Chucta, and Commander Howard C. Hansen, most responsible for its development in land vehicles showed how cycloidal propulsion worked at the Society of Automotive Engineers meeting.

Patent Information:










Publication number    US3016966 A
Publication date    16 Jan 1962
Filing date    12 Oct 1960
Inventors     Howard Clair Hansen
Original Assignee     Howard Clair Hansen

Omnidirectional drive system for land vehicles

Self-propelled land vehicles are, of course, well known. Many such vehicles are particularly intended for use as tractors or prime-movers. A very important requirement of tractor or truck vehicles is that they be as maneuverable as possible. It is also important that the application of driving power and the consequent production of tractive effort be as smooth and controlled as possible in order that maximum tractive effort may be available with an efficient utilization of power. When the tractor vehicle is to be employed for towing large aircraft or is to be used as a forklift truck, maneuverability is of prime importance.

It is a principal object of the present invention to provide an improved land vehicle having a novel omnidirectional drive system which enables the vehicle to be completely maneuverable to move or translate in any direction over the ground from a standing start.

It is another very important object of the present invention to provide a land vehicle having a novel drive system enabling solely by means of direct mechanical linkage the application of power and the production of tractive effort to be continuously variable from minimum to maximum limits of mechanical advantage.

Another object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle which may be supported on many wheels in order to achieve high load-bearing capacity and great tractive capability but in which great simplicity of construction is achieved in a novel drive system in which all wheels transmit tractive propelling power yet are free-running and un-powered in the conventional sense.

Another important object of the invention is to provide an improved land vehicle whose orientation, direction of travel, and power and speed may be either simultaneously or independently controllable by manipulation of a single control column or level.

Yet another important object of the invention is to provide a land vehicle that is completely maneuverable and controllable by the use of a single steering and power control column movable from a central position to any intended direction of movement of the vehicle and wherein the degree of movement of the control column from the central position in the intended direction controls the speed and the mechanical advantage of the tractive effort of the vehicle to increase the speed as the column is moved further.

Another object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle having a novel drive system the control lever of which may be manipulated with ease without necessity of aid from hydraulic power steering systems such as are frequently employed in conventional vehicles for the purpose of overcoming heavy control pressures.

Still another object of this invention is to provide an improved land vehicle that is completely maneuverable and highly controllable to be particularly well suited for use as an air port tractor or as a forklift truck or the like.

Yet another highly significant object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle which has no need for friction brakes in that the novel drive system of the invention inherently provides complete braking control over the vehicle.

In accordance with the invention, a vehicle main frame supporting the power source, drivers seat and controls 1s itself supported on at least one subframe that is rotatable beneath the main frame. One or more wheels supporting the vehicle are mounted on the periphery of the subframe. The power source may be connected to rotate the subframe and so long as the plane of rotation of each of the subframe wheels is maintained in tangential alignment with the rotation of the subframe, that is, so long as the axes of the wheel axles are radial with respect to the center of rotation of the subframe, the wheels will roll in a circular path on the ground and the subframe and the main frame will not translate in relation to the ground. The subframe wheels rotate on short shafts and are provided with kingpins and steering arms which are connected to a single control lever or column attached to the main frame of the vehicle. The control column is universally mounted and may be tilted in any direction and, so long as the control column bears a prependicular relationship to the plane of rotation of the subframe, the wheels are constrained to roll in a circular path on the ground as described above. When the control column is tilted in any direction away from the above-described perpendicular relationship, suitable linkage connecting the control column to the steering arms of the subframe wheesl causes the rotation of the subframe to vary the steering angles of the subframe Wheels; in sinusoidal fashion, thereby causing the subframe and the main frame to translate with respect to the ground. The interconnecting linkage is such as to cause the period of the sinusoidal variation of the steering angle of each wheel to be equal to the period of one revolution of the subframe, and such as to cause the phase-relationship between the rotation of the subframe and the steering angle variations to be determined by the direction in which the control column is tilted, and such as to cause the magnitude of the steering angle variations to be determined by the degree to which the control column is tilted. The arrangement is such, therefore, that the direction of movement of the vehicle is determined by the direction in which the control column is tilted, while the speed of the vehicle movement and, inversely, the mechanical advantage of the tractive effort are determined by the degree to which the control column is tilted. Thus complete maneuverability and controllability of the land vehicle are obtained with the use of a single control column. One or more trailing wheels may be fixed to the vehicle main frame to establish a heading for the main frame and to prevent contrarotation of the vehicle main frame, or a second subframe may be utilized to provide a means for controlling the heading of the main frame of the vehicle relative to the direction of movement of the vehicle over the ground.

Similar Drives used in Robotics:

Trochoid Drive by Osaka University – See Patent US8757316.

Publication date    24 Jun 2014
Filing date    7 Jun 2011

See other early Walking Wheels at the bottom here.
See other early Mobile Robots here.

1983 – “Kludge” Omnidirectional Mobile Robot – John M. Holland (American)

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1983 – "Kludge" Omnidirectional Mobile Robot by John M. Holland.

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Kludge with legs contracted.


Kludge at a 1984 exhibition.


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John M. Holland.

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The focus in this post is on the unique mobility base, and not on its navigation and sensor qualities.

Patent Information:

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Publication number    US4573548 A

Publication date    4 Mar 1986
Filing date    23 Jul 1983
Priority date    23 Jul 1983
Inventors    John M. Holland
Original Assignee    Cybermation, Inc.
Mobile base for robots and the like
US 4573548 A
A mobile base for robots or other devices requiring a transport mechanism is disclosed incorporating a plurality of wheels which are simultaneously driven and steered by separate drive sources so as to allow the mobile base to change direction without rotation of the mobile base. In an additional embodiment, each wheel is located on an extensible leg assembly which can be rotated to project outwardly from the mobile base and thereby provide additional stability to the base. This adaptive, retractable leg synchro-drive mobile base uses a third drive source to perform the extension and retraction of the leg assemblies and provides that the wheels maintain their orientation while extension or retraction occurs while the mobile base is in translation and that the wheel orientation returns to its previous state if retraction or extension occurs while the base is not in translation.

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Source: Basic Robotic Concepts, John M. Holland, 1983.

Synchro Drive (Author)
The synchro drive system shown in Fig. 3-18 features three or more wheels (in this case four) that are mechanically synchronized to each other for both steering and power. Synchronization can be accomplished by the use of chains (as shown), or by gears. Each wheeled "foot" assembly contains a 90° miter gear arrangement as shown in Fig. 3-19. The housing of the foot is driven by the steering chain, while the inner shaft is connected to the drive chain. The

Fig. 3-18. Synchro-drive using chain coupling.

Fig. 3-19. Steering action of the synchro-drive foot assembly.
system offers some interesting characteristics when it is driven. Since the wheels steer together, the base does not change its rotational orientation when the robot executes a turn. For this reason, the upper torso of the robot (which contains the vision and ranging systems) is pivoted and mechanically linked to the steering chain. By driving the steering chain with a stepper motor (and gear reducer) the robot can execute very precisely controlled turns.
Notice that the miter gear (Fig. 3-19) must be on the opposite side of the power shaft from the wheel. This is because of the interplay between steering and wheel drive. If the power chain is stationary (the robot is not moving), and the steering chain causes the foot to execute one complete revolution, the wheel power shaft will experience the equivalent effect of one revolution in the opposite direction. With a miter gear having a ratio of 1:1 and located as shown, the wheel axle will revolve once in such a way that the wheel rolls around an arc as shown in the figure. This action is much easier on treated
surfaces than having the wheel pivot about its center line. With the 1:1 ratio, the robot will not wobble as the turn is executed, if the wheel radius (r) is equal to pivot radius (r'). Unfortunately, this may mean that in the inboard rotational position (the right-most wheel in Fig. 3-18A) is displaced sufficiently under the robot to cause a deterioration of the zone of stability. If the pivot radius (r') is shortened, the robot will appear to "belly dance" as the steering is operated. If this is objectionable, the miter gear can be selected to have a ratio equal to the ratio of the circumferences of the two circles associated with r and r'. This of course means that it will be the ratio of the two radiuses.
The system has some attractive qualities, but it is not overly stable because it cannot adapt to steep terrain. For robots operating on flat surfaces, it is a good alternative.
•    Efficiency: Fair to good
•    Simplicity of Control: Excellent
•    Traction: Good
•    Maneuverability: Excellent
•    Navigation: Excellent
•    Stability: Fair to poor depending on the number of wheels
•    Adaptability: None
•    Destructiveness: Excellent
•    Climbing: Poor
•    Maintenance: Fair to good
•    Cost: Low to moderate
Adaptive Synchro Drive with Retractable Leg Assemblies
The adaptive synchro drive represents a compromise between the complexity of a walking robot, and the simplicity (and poor stability) of the synchro drive. The requirement that led to this design was to provide a robot that could negotiate relatively steer ramps, and that could climb over mild curbs without falling over. The solution was to add a degree of adaptability to the synchro drive. This was to be accomplished in the simplest possible manner, and the result is shown in Figs. 3-20, 3-21, and 3-22.
The adaptive synchro drive has the same basic power and steering chain arrangements in the base as did the original system, except that at the positions where the wheels were, there are now pivoted

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Fig. 3-20. Synchro-drive leg assembly.
leg assemblies. A set of two chains in each leg transmits the drive and steering control to the same type "foot" assembly used in the synchro drive. Fixed to each leg at the pivot point is a chain sprocket connected to a third stepping motor and gear box arrangement. The power and steering shafts run concentrically through this sprocket into the leg. This arrangement allows the legs to rotate about their pivots (Fig. 3-23), thus changing the effective area of the base. As the legs rotate, the linkages are such that the wheels continue steering in the original direction. Since there is no capability of steering the wheels individually, they cannot be caused to "toe in" during collapsing. For this reason, a certain amount of rolling motion is required to allow this action to take place without damaging the surface on which the robot is running. To accomplish this, the action of the retraction (collapse) motor can be locked to the main drive motor. If the legs must be retracted in a short distance, the robot may have to roll forward and backward once or twice. Alternatively, it can execute a continuous turn with the drive motor turned off. Another disadvantage to this system is that the base orientation cannot be controlled. Thus if the robot approaches a load with the legs extended, it must make do with whatever the orientation of the legs might be. A modification to the steering chain may be added to overcome this problem.

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Fig. 3-21. Diagram of a synchro-drive with retractable leg assemblies.
This modification would consist of three movable idlers taking up chain slack between the wheels. In the normal position of these idlers, the wheels would all steer in the same direction. In the other idler position the wheels would all steer tangentially and the robot base could pivot on its own axis. Unfortunately, this reduces the simplicity and economy of the design.
Like the synchro drive, this carriage can steer through 360 degrees without moving. This eliminates the need for backing up. There are several advantages to avoiding this maneuver, including the elimination of rear facing obstacle detection systems and the elimination of polarity reversing circuitry on the main power motor. This second factor improves efficiency since solid-state polarity reversing circuitry always induces some power loss.
This whole arrangement is of course an elaborate compromise, but it was one that satisfied our needs. The lack of independent wheel steering control was traded off for the simplicity of control and economy of having only one drive and one steering motor. The two main sacrifices that had to be made were in the area of efficiency and maintenance.

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Fig. 3-22. Photograph of a synchro-drive with retractable leg assemblies (battery removed from foreground).
My experimental version of this system (named "Kludge") has been very successful, and the efficiency is better than expected. With 8-inch diameter tires and its legs extended, Kludge can climb over 4 X 4-inch timbers (actually 3.5 X 3.5 inches). My totally unbiased assessment of this approach is:
•    Efficiency: Fair to good
•    Simplicity of Control: Excellent
•    Traction: Good
•    Maneuverability: Excellent
•    Navigation: Excellent
•    Stability: Fair with legs retracted, excellent with them extended
•    Adaptability: Adaptable to ramps and small single steps
•    Destructiveness: Excellent with precautions mentioned above
•    Climbing: Poor
•    Maintenance: Fair (I hope)
•    Cost: Moderate

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Fig. 3-23. Rotational collapsing and the change of the zone of stability.

….I would also like to thank Mr. Robert Pharr of Roanoke, Virginia, whose mechanical expertise brought the mobile robot "Kludge" from a concept to a reality. Thanks must also go to my technician, Mr. William Grady Spiegel, for his support in breadboarding many of the circuits associated with Kludge and other systems discussed in this book…

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The Old Robots conveniently has a pdf of this article.

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Source: ROBOTICS AGE January 1985 [edited]
John M. Holland
Cybermation, Inc.
When human beings attempt to solve a problem, they tend to match successful past solutions to the new situation. While this problem solving technique is extremely helpful in day-to-day situations, it can be misleading when we attempt to solve unique new problems. The trouble is that this whole conceptual process is so unconscious that we are unaware of the assumptions we make along the way. The problem of robot mobility is an excellent example.
When we start thinking about robot mobility systems, we immediately catalog the solutions to mobility problems in other fields. Most present-day mobile robots use a version of the mobility system originally designed for either a tricycle, a wheelchair, an automobile, a tank, an all-terrain vehicle, a wagon, or a combination of these. In some cases, the designer has turned to nature for inspiration and the result may resemble a spider or even an elephant.
Many mobile robots are well adapted to the problems they are designed to solve. For example, robots like the Ohio State University (OSU) Hexapod or the Odetics Odex I walker are required for certain rough-terrain applications. In fact, an article by R. B. McGhee, et. al. (see references) shows that walking robots may actually be more efficient than wheels or treads on soft surfaces. Still, it is very important to realize the original problem for which the technique was developed.
Attempting to apply existing vehicle designs to robots quickly points out the difference between the intelligence and sensory capabilities of a robot "driver" and a human operator. The robot driver will be a relatively stupid, nearly blind computer. Expecting a robot driver to perform the classical parallel parking maneuver for an automobile is optimistic in the extreme.Solutions based on animal models have an additional problem since animals are constructed from different materials than those available for the robot. For example, muscle tissue provides both an excellent lightweight servomechanism, and compliant springiness that can be used to store and recover kinetic energy.
Before designing a robot mobility system, we must determine the robot's intended capabilities and make several trade-offs for cost vs. performance.
The first major trade-off is between walking and rolling. While a walking robot can go almost anywhere, it will tend to be very complex mechanically, difficult to control, expensive to build, slow, and (on finished surfaces) relatively inefficient. Some of these difficulties can be eliminated, but only at the expense of making others worse. Depending on the applications, the ability to climb stairs, rubble, and undefined obstacles, may outweigh all other considerations. On the other hand, it may be more economical to replace stairs in the robot's environment with ramps, thus making a rolling robot acceptable.
There are always restrictions on the robot as well. These restrictions include the width and height clearance available, the maximum weight, the damage that it can be permitted to inflict on its running surface, etc.

As the robot design progresses, it is sometimes necessary to back up and modify or subdivide the original performance envelope. For example, two models of the robot may become necessary to fulfill all requirements, or perhaps an ability may be dropped rather than modify the robot's operating environment.
The example used in Table 1 evaluates applications we had in mind for our Cybermation robots and is an approximate evaluation of our first prototype. These robots would be expected to perform teleoperated and autonomous functions in demanding industrial applications, including explosives factories, clean-rooms, and nuclear reactor buildings. Thus, as reflected in the table, initial cost is not as important as the maintenance costs and reliability. The ability to climb steps was dropped in favor of requiring ramps and lifts.

The base consists of three wheel assemblies located on retractable legs. We call this the Synchro-drive since a set of chains is used to synchronously steer and drive all three wheels. The robot has three sets of motors, gear boxes, and chains; one for driving the wheels, one for retracting and extending the legs, and one for steering the wheels. Additionally, the steering chain is connected to a spine shaft running up through the center of the base. The robot's turret is mounted on a flange attached to this shaft, and rotates with the shaft in such a way that the turret always points in the same direction as the wheels.
This configuration gives the Synchro-drive some interesting capabilities. For example, the base does not rotate as the robot executes a turn. Not only does this save energy (by not requiring rotational acceleration and deceleration of the base), but it also allows the robot to maintain a sense of direction, by measuring the angle of the turret and base. One of the greatest advantages of the Synchro-drive is that steering and drive commands represent a pure polar coordinate reference system. This greatly simplifies navigation.
Furthermore, since the Synchro-drive has a true zero turning radius, it does not need reverse. This means that rear-facing sensors, and two (expensive) quadrants of the drive motor control can be eliminated.

Finally, the wheel assembly is designed to allow turns without translation. This was accomplished by off-setting the wheel from the center of the steering axis and placing its driving gear in such a way as to impart a rolling action during steering. The robot can thus turn in place, without damaging carpets, tile, or wood floors.


Table 2. Evaluation table for the Synchro-drive robot with concentric shafts and fixed legs.

The Synchro-drive approach evolved after many (informal) cycles through the evaluation process just described, and yet the approach still had short-comings at the point shown in Table 1.
The prototype (nicknamed Kludge) showed that the basic mode of movement was largely superior to other modes being considered, but the chains were a real problem. First, chains don't like to operate in a horizontal plane, and at least 180 degrees of engagement or purchase is required on each sprocket. This meant that many idlers had to be installed, which lowered efficiency and increased costs. Secondly, the chains stretch over time and must be adjusted. Additionally, the chains took up a lot of room and forced the robot's center of gravity to be higher than necessary. As a general rule, chains are noisy and dirty by nature. Finally, the wheels had to be realigned each time the chains were adjusted or tightened.
Each of these problems could be lessened by one measure or another, but the approach kept coming up short of our goals.
The problem then became how to build a robot that had all the good qualities of Kludge but was clean, reliable, easily assembled and repaired, had a lower center of gravity, and required no realignment. It wouldn't hurt if the new approach was (in the jargon of the patent office) clearly novel as well. This would allow us to obtain patent protection for the engineering investment.
The solution was to use a unique combination of concentric shafts and bevel gears. With this configuration, the moving parts could be enclosed inside hollow tubes comprising the robot frame members. This eliminated pollution, and greatly reduced maintenance. Accurately keyed gears kept the steering in alignment at all times.
The second production prototype (K2A) contains only a handful of different types of bearings and gears that are used repeatedly throughout the design. Furthermore, the new approach allows the batteries, drive motor and gear box to be slung between the leg members, lowering the center of gravity. By doing this, and by extending the fixed legs slightly beyond the edge of the base, the robot is about 80 percent as stable as the first Kludge prototype with its legs fully extended, and about 160 percent as stable as the first prototype with its legs retracted. Although an extensible-leg version using concentric shafts is planned, the cost savings on the current model outweigh the loss of high-end stability, at least for most current applications.
The result of these improvements is shown in Table 2. Notice that for the relatively small loss of stability, the savings in other areas are substantial. As an additional advantage, the maneuver required for extending and retracting the legs was eliminated.
The emergence of mobile robots as an important economic reality will require the rethinking of the basic precepts of mobility. These new mechanical "beasties" will encompass an enormous variety of forms, each governed by the niche it is intended to fill. Exactly as in nature, those robots that best fill the requirements of their niche will flourish and evolve, and those that are hastily or ill-conceived will become extinct.
We have used the Cybermation Synchro-drive as an example, but the basic process of fitting a solution to the problem can be used in the development of any robotic system.
McGhee, R.B., KW. Olson, and R. L. Briggs "Electronic Coordination of Joint Motions for a Terrain Adaptive Robot." Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. Warrendale, PA.
Raibert, M. H., et al. "Dynamically Stable Legged Locomotion." The Robot Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. September 1981.
Holland, J. M., Basic Robotic Concepts. Howard W. Sams Publishing Co, 1983.

"Kludge" was a prototype. It evolved into the successful K2A then the K3A, subject to another post.

The company Cybermation became Cybermotion, and now KineLogic.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.
See other early Mobile Robots here.

1985 – Direct Link Prehensor (DLP) – John W. Jameson (American)


1985 – Direct Link Prehensor (DLP) by John W. Jameson.

The project stalled in 1986. Originally designed for astronaut hard suits, it was later licensed to Nuytco for its atmospheric diving systems, or ADS, particularly the then new Exosuit.



The Prehensor is a manipulator that matches the dexterity of a gloved human hand. External ‘fingers’ mimic the exact movements of the inside ‘master’ hand and provide full, 100% reflexive index-ability of the external thumb, in concert with the number of other digits employed. In addition, the outside ‘slave hand’ provides directly proportional sensory feedback of pressure, weight, etc., to the inside master hand (yours!).

The unique capabilities of the Prehensor were developed specifically with the Nuytco ADS ‘Exosuit’ in mind, but the system can easily replace existing simple jaw-style manipulators for use on ADS units. An electronically-controlled version is under development for use on remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s) and deep submersibles. There also has been discussion with the national space agencies of several countries on the use of the ‘Prehensor’ as a possible alternative to the conventional space-suit gloves.





Mechanical prehensor

Publication number US4984951 A
Publication type Grant
Application number US 07/412,540
Publication date 15 Jan 1991
Filing date 22 Sep 1989
Priority date 20 Jan 1988
Fee status Lapsed
Inventor John W. Jameson
Original Assignee The Board Of Trustees Of The Leland Stanford Junior University

The patent was later licensed to Nuytco Research Ltd. around 1990.

A generally anthropomorphic prehensor having at least two mechanical finger apparatus which interface directly with an object being grasped by apparatus of mechanical linking and control mechanisms operatively connected to the operator's fingers. Each mechanical finger has at least two finger links adjacent one another, each finger link independently rotatable about parallel axes in a plane of movement in response to movements of the corresponding phalanges of the operator's fingers. The mechanical prehensor is particularly useful in hostile or hazardous environments such as outer space, underwater, nuclear reactor sites or other hazardous environments, since the mechanical finger means are external to the operator's hand and may be constructed from suitable materials which are unreactive with the hostile environment, while the operator's hand and mechanical linking and control components may be sealed from the hazardous environment by means of a suitable protective shroud.

Manipulation means resembling crude pincers have been used in connection with diving suits for deep sea operations. The "Jim Suit", manufactured by UMEL of Farnborough, England, for example, has rudimentary external pincers for grasping which are mechanically actuated by hand movements, and it provides a gas-tight shroud around control mechanisms manipulable by the operator's hand. The pincers are claw-like, having two opposed finger means rotatable about a single axis in generally the same plane of movement. Mechanically actuated pincers of this type have some utility in grasping objects in hostile environments, but they achieve only a clamping-type grasp, and thus they provide limited external dexterity and manipulation.

Space suits developed for extra-vehicular activities in outer space typically have gloves for covering the hands of the space explorer. Due to pressurization inside the space suit and gloves, however, the gloves become very stiff during extra-vehicular activities, resulting in limited external dexterity and excessive hand fatigue.

Robotic manipulation devices having a plurality of finger means simulating human finger motions are currently being developed which may have some application in hostile environments. Robotic manipulation devices having multiple fingers capable of executing multiple degree of freedom movements are typically controlled electronically and require substantial amounts of energy for operation. While these types of robotic manipulation devices provide a high degree of external dexterity, the energy required for operation and the bulk of the control mechanisms render them impractical for use in many hostile environments.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic prehensor having external finger means mechanically controllable by movements of the operator's fingers.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic mechanical prehensor providing enhanced dexterity in hazardous environments which operates in response to movements of the operator's fingers and has no supplemental energy requirements.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a hand-powered mechanical prehensor which significantly reduces operator hand fatigue and increases operator safety and dexterity in hostile environments. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a prehensor having at least two external mechanical finger means, each mechanical finger means capable of selectively executing multiple motions in a plane of motion, thus providing enhanced mechanical fingertip prehension and the ability to grasp and manipulate objects in a hostile environment. It is still another object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic prehensor having external finger means mechanically actuated by movements of the operator's fingers which provides smooth, accurate, sensitive mechanical finger control, and which is reliable and simple to operate.






Selected stills from the above video clip.





With the shroud completed the DLP was ready to place on the spacesuit for testing. But there was a problem. It turned out that not enough attention was given to the ability of extracting the fingers from the control rings for doffing the DLP, and it was never tested with a suit. The Challenger accident [1986] curtailed the project before this could be corrected.

Trivia: John W. Jameson is the same person who designed and built the amazing Walking Gyro!

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1997-2000 – “Exosuit” Development – R. T. “Phil” Nuytten (Canadian)

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The EXOSUIT mock-up by R. T. "Phil" Nuytten from 1999.


Sylvia Earle with the Exosuit mock-up in 1999.

The Exosuit is Phil Nuytten's next generation Atmospheric Diving System following from his successful Newtsuit.


Sport Diver Nov-Dec 2005

Dr. Phil and the Amazing Exosuit by Daryl Carson.
If you haven't heard of diving's Dr. Phil, here's a tip: He's nothing like the one you might find on weekday television. His genius is in solving mechanical difficulties, and he's applied that genius to building fantastic machines for sub-sea use. In a career spanning four decades, he's produced numerous underwater vehicles worthy of science fiction.
Most sport divers know Dr. Phil Nuytten as the face peering from the clear mask of the Newtsuit, a one-atmosphere, hard-shell diving suit that looks like a yellow Michelin Man. Some know him, too, as the creator of the DeepWorker micro-submersibles used by Sylvia Earle during the Sustainable Seas Expeditions begun in the late '90s. However, in 2000 the diving world got another big shot of Nuytten when Dr. Phil unveiled the Exosuit. Since then divers have been salivating over the possibilities created by this pressure suit capable of free-swimming to depths of 600 feet. Even more tantalizing has been talk of a model aimed at the recreational market and priced this side of six figures.
After more than five years of beta testing, a production model is incredibly close. I had the chance to speak with Dr. Phil recently, and he happily admits he's "running out of excuses" not to put the Exosuit on the market. (Work on the suit was slowed due to resources poured into the DeepWorker project. It seems they can't build the little subs fast enough.)
Three issues have been hampering production, and two of them have recently been overcome. One was the cost of making the joints that give the Exosuit its flexibility, but a new approach has greatly reduced that expense. Another was developing a five-fingered hand (not shown) instead of the simple claw found on the Newtsuit. Dr. Phil says he now has a fully mechanical device that works in concert with the human hand. It's sensitive enough to allow the user to pick up a pen and sign his name. The last hurdle is performing swimming trials, which, if all goes well, could take place as early as next spring.
"I'm hoping to recover a lot of our engineering costs on the first 50 to 75 units," says Dr. Phil, who points out that military and underwater construction applications will be the most prominent. "But eventually I'd like to get the cost down to that of a couple of Volkswagens."
Materials: Composite fiber hull with metal inserts
Manipulator: Simple claw manipulator or optional multi-fingered prehensor "hand" [edited]
Models: Free-swimming, self-contained and surface-supplied
Height: Variable 5'6" to 6'4"
Beam: 20" torso, 30" elbow to elbow (average)
Weight in Air: 120 lb. bare; 160 lb. with tanks and scrubber pack
Operating Depth: 300/600 feet
Payload: 200 lb.
Life Support: Dual external cylinders (02, diluent — gas that's mixed with 02 to make it safer to breathe); 48 man-hours

The Exosuit has taken longer to get to market than expected. These images are some 10 or more years since the initial development.







The well-proven pincer-styled gripper. A new prehensor is offered as an option.

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This image, promoting the HUBLOT wristwatch, highlights the size of the hand cowling of the Exosuit.


A later image still showing the 'swimmer' option still being promoted.


Phil Nuytten has proposed a project called "Vent Base Alpha". "I have a plan for an underwater Mars-like colony. It will essentially be powered by the heat vents on the ocean floor and will house people to work on an undersea mining operation out of the heat vents. I´ve spent the last couple of years talking to people all around the world about this concept, and I´m ready to see it happen. I call it Vent Base Alpha."

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1979 – OMAS SPIDER Atmospheric Diving Suit – Graham Hawkes (British)


1979 –  OMAS SPIDER Atmospheric Diving Suit.

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Underwater World – 1978, Volumes 1-2 – Page 43
A new atmospheric diving suit called OMAS has recently been developed by Vickers Slingsby, and two of these are already in use by the Aberdeen-based diving and underwater engineering company, Wharton-Williams. Nicknamed 'Spider' by Wharton-Williams, this is the fifth A.D.S. to have been developed, the others being Oceaneering's 'JIM' and 'Sam', and OSEL's 'Wasp' and 'Mantis'.
OMAS (alias 'Spider') is guilt of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) and operates to a depth of around 600m. Handling problems sink hopes of Lloyd's certification for Omas, the Vickers-Slingsby one-man diving submersible OMAS,

Plastics and Rubber International – 1979, Volumes 4-6 – Page 7
OMAS (One Man Atmosphere Submersible) is the latest underwater development from Vickers-Slingsby. Constructed from BP Chemicals Cellobond A2785 CV glass reinforced polyester resin (GRP), the 2.2 metre long OMAS is tethered during operations to a mother-ship via an umbilical cord through which power is supplied. OMAS is shaped like a rigid space suit.


01/01/2001. Source: here.
The Spider, owned by Silvercrest Submarines, has emerged after many years of dormancy. The Spider, built in the 1970s, has unique features not in use on other suits, including hydraulically operated manipulators and vectored thrusters that allow some lateral movement. The Spider is rated to a water depth of 610 meters. Alan Whitfield of Silvercrest Submarines, current owner of the two working Spiders said "the units are presently in Hawaii, in support of a scientific research program. The water depth in the area is 1,500 ft. In November 2000, it is expected that both suits will move to a facility on the US mainland for a maintenance program. After that time, the two units will be available for charter." It remains to be seen if the Spider will effectively compete in the ADS industry.  


Interior view showing the divers seat and some of the controls. A view of the divers depth gauges etc. Scrubber units can be seen in the base of the vehicle and the auto pilot can be seen near the diver's head position.

The SPIDER had hydraulically operated manipulators. An adjustable pressure relief valve permitted varying the grip pressure.

One Man 1 Atmosphere Submersible, also known as OMAS SPIDER.

Source: here.

The Spider 'Atmospheric' Diving Suit was produced in the 1970s for exploration and maintenance work in the North Sea. The Spider had a depth rating of 2000 feet and was used in many deep operations mainly from drilling rigs. It had an eclectically insulated GRP body and a Plexiglas hemispherical dome. The diver could operate articulated arms with powered claws capable of various tasks. Six variable direction motors and thrusters provide propulsion . For static operations there are suction pads for gripping smooth surfaces.

Atmospheric Diving Suits normally work in pairs for safety reasons to help release the trapped vehicle should this occur. This also enables round the clock operations.
The Spider was easily moveable and could be deployed very quickly. Apart from work in the Petrochemical industry it could be used for salvage and rescue work. The diver in the vehicle breathes normal air so could work for long periods sometimes eight hours a day without costly saturation diving systems. It was used until 1982 when it was replaced by the Draeger-Newt suit suit, designed by Dr Phil Nuytten from Canada.

Technical specification:
Height:     2,2 Metres
Width:     1.5 Metres
Displacement:     1200kgs
Depth rating:     610 Metres
Propulsion:     6 x 1 hp motors
Umbilical:     12 Tonne breaking strain
TV System:     Low light/colour /real time recording
Emergency power:     24 V 8 Ah for emergency communications

The Spider was completely self contained with power packs and oxygen supply on board giving up to 72 hours of emergency life support systems.

Spider-x640 The SPIDER (Self-Propelled Inspection Submarines DivER) was developed in the 1970's, in answer to the WASP. The basic design was very similar to the WASP, in that it had segmented ball and socket arm joints, a hemispherical pressure vessel for the legs and a 360° viewing dome (Wharton, 1979). One of the SPIDER's unique features were the two hydraulically operated suction pads, 'sticky feet', located in the equipment package that were intended to allow the SPIDER to attach itself to any relatively smooth surface, that is if you can find one in the barnacle encrusted sea. Additionally, rather than the 'standard' mechanical advantage manipulators found on other atmospheric diving suits, the SPIDER had hydraulically operated manipulators. An adjustable pressure relief valve permitted varying the grip pressure. Like the WASP, the SPIDER also has variable ballast control. Two SPIDERs, owned by Silvercrest Submarines, are currently operating in Hawaii in support of a scientific research program.


Stamp showing the SPIDER.

See other early Underwater Robots here.