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LOCOMOTION ISSUES
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pet-size robot you ll probably not want to reduce the height, but rather increase the base area to prevent the robot from tipping over.
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Locomotion Issues
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The way your robot gets from point A to point B is called locomotion. Robot locomotion takes many forms, but wheels and tracks are the most common. Legged robots are also popular, especially among hobbyists, as designing them represents a challenge both in construction and weight-balance dynamics.
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WHEELS AND TRACKS
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Wheels, and to a lesser extent tracks, are the most common means chosen to scoot robots around. However, some wheels are better for mobile robots than others. Some of the design considerations you may want keep in mind include the following:
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I The wider the wheels, the more the robot will tend to stay on course. With very narrow
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wheels, the robot may have a tendency to favor one side or the other and will trace a slow curve instead of a straight line. Conversely, if the wheels are too wide, the friction created by the excess wheel area contacting the ground may hinder the robot s ability to make smooth turns. Two driven wheels positioned on either side of the robot (and balanced by one or two casters on either end) can provide full mobility. This is the most common drive wheel arrangement. Tracks turn by skidding or slipping, and they are best used on surfaces such as dirt that readily allow low-friction steering. Four or more driven wheels, mounted in sets on each side, will function much like tracks. In tight turns, the wheels will experience significant skidding, and they will therefore create friction over any running surface. If you choose this design, position the wheel sets close together. You should select wheel and track material to reflect the surface the robot will be used on. Rubber and foam are common choices; both provide adequate grip for most kinds of surfaces. Foam tires are lighter in weight, but they don t skid well on hard surfaces (such as hardwood or tile floors).
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Thanks to the ready availability of smart microcontrollers, along with the low cost of R/C (radio-controlled) servos, legged automatons are becoming a popular alternative for robot builders. Robots with legs require more precise construction than the average wheeled robot. They also tend to be more expensive. Even a basic six-legged walking robot requires a minimum of 2 or 3 servos, with some six- and eight-leg designs requiring 12 or more motors. At about $12 per servo (more for higher-quality ones), the cost can add up quickly!
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224 ROBOT LOCOMOTION PRINCIPLES
Obviously, the first design decision is the number of legs. Robots with one leg ( hoppers ) or two legs are the most difficult to build because of balance issues, and we will not address them here. Robots with four and six legs are more common. Six legs offer a static balance that ensures that the robot won t easily fall over. At any one time, a minimum of three legs touch the ground, forming a stable tripod. In a four-legged robot, either the robot must move one leg at a time keeping the other three on the ground for stability or else employ some kind of dynamic balance when only two of its legs are on the ground at any given time. Dynamic balance is often accomplished by repositioning the robot s center of gravity, typically by moving a weight (such as the robot s head or tail, if it has one). This momentarily redistributes the center of balance to prevent the robot from falling over. The algorithms and mechanisms for achieving dynamic balance are not trivial. Four-legged robots are difficult to steer, unless you add additional degrees of freedom for each leg or articulate the body of the beast like those weird segmented city buses you occasionally see. The movement of the legs with respect to the robot s body is often neglected in the design of legged robots. The typical six-legged (hexapod) robot uses six identical legs. Yet the crawling insect a hexapod robot attempts to mimic is designed with legs of different lengths and proportions the legs are made to do different things. The back legs of an insect, for example, are often longer and are positioned near the back for pushing (this is particularly true of insects that burrow through dirt). The front legs may be similarly constructed for digging, carrying food, fighting, and walking. You may wish to replicate this design, or something similar, for your own robots. Watch some documentaries on insects and study how they walk and how their legs are articulated. Remember that the cockroach has been around for over a million years and represents a very advanced form of biological engineering!
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