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Copyright 2001 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Click Here for Terms of Use.
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558 ADDING THE SENSE OF TOUCH
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Mechanical Switch
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The lowly mechanical switch is the most common, and simple, form of tactile (touch) feedback. Most any momentary, spring-loaded switch will do. When the robot makes contact, the switch closes, completing a circuit (or in some cases, the switch opens, breaking the circuit). The switch may be directly connected to a motor or discrete circuit, or it may be connected to a computer or microcontroller, as shown in Fig. 35.1. You can choose from a wide variety of switch styles when designing contact switches for tactile feedback. Leaf switches (sometimes referred to as Microswitch switches, after a popular brand name) come with levers of different lengths that enhance the sensitivity of the switch. You can also use miniature contact switches, like those used in keyboards and electronic devices, as touch sensors on your robot. In all cases, mount the switch so it makes contact with whatever object you wish to sense. In the case of a robotic gripper, you can mount the switch in the hand or finger sections. In the case of feelers for a smaller handless robot, the switch can be mounted fore or aft. It makes contact with an object as it rolls along the ground. By changing the arrangement of the switch from vertical (see Fig. 35.2), you can have the feeler determine if it s reached the edge of a table or a stair landing.
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Optical Sensors
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Optical sensors use a narrow beam of light to detect when an object is within the grasping area of a gripper. Optical sensors provide the most rudimentary form of touch sensitivity and are often used with other touch sensors, such as mechanical switches.
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Switch FIGURE 35.1 A mechanical switch makes a perfect touch sensor.
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Frame Vertical mount detects changes in terrain
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FIGURE 35.2 By orienting the switch to the vertical, your robot can detect changes in topography, such as when it s about to run off the edge of a table.
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MECHANICAL PRESSURE SENSORS 559
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Building an optical sensor into a gripper is easy. Mount an infrared LED in one finger or pincher; mount an infrared-sensitive phototransistor in another finger or pincher (see Fig. 35.3). Where you place the LED and transistor along the length of the finger or pincher determines the grasping area. Mounting the infrared pair on the tips of the fingers or pinchers provides for little grasping area because the robot is told that an object is within range when only a small portion of it can be grasped. In most gripper designs, two or more LEDs and phototransistors are placed along the length of the grippers or fingers to provide more positive control. Alternatively, you may wish to detect when an object is closest to the palm of the gripper. You d mount the LED and phototransistor accordingly. Fig. 35.4 shows the schematic diagram for a single LED-transistor pair. Adjust the value of R2 to increase or decrease the sensitivity of the phototransistor. You may need to place an infrared filter over the phototransistor to prevent it from triggering as a result of ambient light sources (some phototransistors have the filter built into them already). Use an LED-transistor pair equipped with a lens to provide additional rejection of ambient light and to increase sensitivity. During normal operation, the transistor is on because it is receiving light from the LED. When an object breaks the light path, the transistor switches off. A control circuit connected to the conditioned transistor output detects the change and closes the gripper. In a practical application, using a computer as a controller, you d write a short software program to control the actuation of the gripper.
Mechanical Pressure Sensors
An optical sensor is a go/no-go device that can detect only the presence of an object, not the amount of pressure on it. A pressure sensor detects the force exerted by the gripper on
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