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Next to the batteries, the drive motors are probably the heaviest component in your robot. You ll want to carefully consider where the drive motor(s) are located and how the weight is distributed throughout the base. One of the most popular mobile robot designs uses two identical motors to spin two wheels on opposite sides of the base. These wheels provide forward and backward locomotion, as shown in Fig. 16.4, as well as left and right steering. If you stop the left motor, the robot turns to the left. By reversing the motors relative to one another, the robot turns by spinning on its wheel axis ( turns in place ). You use this forward-reverse movement to make hard or sharp right and left turns.
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CENTER-LINE DRIVE MOTOR MOUNT
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You can place the wheels and hence the motors just about anywhere along the length of the platform. If they are placed in the middle, as shown in Fig. 16.5, you should add two casters to either end of the platform to provide stability. Since the motors are in the center of the platform, the weight is more evenly distributed across it. You can place the battery or batteries above the center line of the wheel axis, which will maintain the even distribution.
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MOTOR DRIVES
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FIGURE 16.4 Two motors mounted on either side of the robot can power two wheels. Casters provide balance. The robot steers by changing the speed and direction of each motor.
A benefit of center-line mounting is that the robot has no front or back, at least as far as the drive system is concerned. Therefore, you can create a kind of multidirectional robot that can move forward and backward with the same ease. Of course, this approach also complicates the sensor arrangement of your robot. Instead of having bump switches only in the front of your robot, you ll need to add additional ones in the back in case the robot is reversing direction when it strikes an object.
226 ROBOT LOCOMOTION PRINCIPLES
FRONT-DRIVE MOTOR MOUNT
You can also position the wheels on one end of the platform. In this case, you add one caster on the other end to provide stability and a pivot for turning, as shown in Fig. 16.6. Obviously, the weight is now concentrated more on the motor side of the platform. You should place more weight over the drive wheels, but avoid putting all the weight there since maneuverability and stability may be diminished. One advantage of front-drive mounting is that it simplifies the construction of the robot. Its steering circle, the diameter of the circle in which the robot can be steered, is still the same diameter as the center-line drive robot. However, it extends beyond the front/back
Caster
Caster
FIGURE 16.5 A robot with a centerline motor mount uses two casters (very occasionally one) for balance. When using one caster, you may need to shift the balance of weight toward the caster end to avoid having the robot tip over.
Caster
FIGURE 16.6 A robot with a front-drive motor mount uses a single opposing caster for balance. Steering is accomplished using the same technique as a centerline motor mount.
MOTOR DRIVES
dimension of the robot (see Fig. 16.7). This may or may not be a problem, depending on the overall size of your robot and how you plan to use it. Any given front-drive robot may be smaller than its centerline drive cousin. Because of the difference in their physical size, the diameter of the steering circle for both may be about the same.
CASTER CHOICES
As we mentioned earlier, most robots employing the two motor drive system use at least one unpowered caster, which provides support and balance. Two casters are common in robots that use center-line drive-wheel mounting. Each caster is positioned at opposite ends of the robot. When selecting casters it is important to consider the following factors:
I The size of the caster wheel should be in proportion to the drive wheels (see Fig. 16.8).
When the robot is on the ground the drive motors must firmly touch terra firma. If the caster wheels are too large, the drive motors may not make adequate contact, and poor traction will result. You might also consider using a suspension system of your own design on the casters to compensate for uneven terrain.
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