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Steering circle for front-drive robot
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FIGURE 16.7 The steering circle of a robot with centerline and front-drive mounted motors.
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228 ROBOT LOCOMOTION PRINCIPLES
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FIGURE 16.8 The height of the caster with respect to the drive wheels will greatly influence the robot s traction and maneuverability. A spring-loaded caster (a kind of suspension) can improve functionality of the robot on semirough terrain. I The casters should spin and swivel freely. A caster that doesn t spin freely will impede
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I In most cases, since the caster is provided only for support and not traction you should
construct the caster from a hard material to reduce friction. A caster made of soft rubber will introduce more friction, and it may affect a robot s movements. I Consider using ball casters (also called ball transfers ), which are primarily designed to be used in materials processing (conveyor chutes and the like). Ball casters (see Fig. 16.9) are made of a single ball either metal or rubber held captive in a housing, and they function as omnidirectional casters for your robot. The size of the ball varies from about 11/16 inch to over 3 inches in diameter. Look for ball casters at mechanical surplus stores and also at industrial supply outlets, such as Grainger and McMaster-Carr.
Steering Methods
A variety of methods are available to steer your robot. The following sections describe several of the more common approaches.
STEERING METHODS
DIFFERENTIAL
For wheeled and tracked robots, differential steering is the most common method for getting the machine to go in a different direction. The technique is exactly the same as steering a military tank: one side of wheels or treads stops or reverses direction while the other side keeps going. The result is that the robot turns in the direction of the stopped or reversed wheel or tread. Because of friction effects, differential steering is most practical with two-wheel-drive systems. Additional sets of wheels, as well as rubber treads, can increase friction during steering.
I If you are using multiple wheels ( dually ), position the wheels close together, as shown
in Fig. 16.10. The robot will pivot at a virtual point midway between the two wheels on each side.
FIGURE 16.9 Ball casters (or ball transfers) are omnidirectional. For medium- to large-sized robots consider using them instead of wheeled casters.
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"Dually" drive wheels
FIGURE 16.10 Dually wheels should be placed close to one another. If they are spaced farther apart the robot cannot steer as easily.
230 ROBOT LOCOMOTION PRINCIPLES
I If you are using treads, select a relatively low-friction material such as cloth or hard
plastic. Very soft rubber treads will not steer well on smooth surfaces. If this cannot be helped, one approach is to always steer by reversing the tread directions. This will reduce the friction.
CAR-TYPE
Pivoting the wheels in the front is yet another method for steering a robot (see Fig. 16.11). Robots with car-type steering are not as maneuverable as differentially steered robots, but they are better suited for outdoor uses, especially over rough terrain. You can obtain somewhat better traction and steering accuracy if the wheel on the inside of the turn pivots more than the wheel on the outside. This technique is called Ackerman steering and is found on most cars but not on as many robots.
TRICYCLE
One of the greatest drawbacks of the differentially steered robot is that the robot will veer off course if one motor is even a wee bit slow. You can compensate for this by monitoring the speed of both motors and ensuring that they operate at the same rpm. This typically requires a control computer, as well as added electronics and mechanical parts for sensing the speed of the wheels. Car-type steering, described in the last section, is one method for avoiding the problem of crabbing as a result of differences in motor speed simply because the robot is driven by just one motor. But car-type steering makes for fairly cumbersome indoor mobile robots. A better approach is to use a single drive motor powering two rear wheels and a single steering wheel in the front. This arrangement is just like a child s tricycle, as shown in Fig. 16.12. The robot can be steered in a circle just slightly larger than the width of the machine. Be careful about the wheelbase of the robot (distance from the back wheels to the front steering wheel). A short base will cause instability in turns, and the robot will tip over opposite the direction of the turn. Tricycle-steered robots must have a very accurate steering motor in the front. The motor must be able to position the front wheel with subdegree accuracy. Otherwise, there is no guarantee the robot will be able to travel a straight line. Most often, the steering wheel is controlled by a servo motor. Servo motors use a closed-loop feedback system that provides a high degree of positional accuracy (depending on the quality of the
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