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18.5 Frame Sagging Caused by Weight
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A critical issue in robot frame design is excessive weight that causes the frame to sag in the middle. In a typical robot, a special problem arises when the frame sags: the wheels on either side pivot on the frame and are no longer perpendicular to the ground. Instead, they bow out at the bottom and in at the top (this is called negative camber). Depending on which robot tires you use, traction errors can occur because the contact area of the wheel is no longer consistent. As even more weight is added, the robot may have a tendency to veer off to one side or the other. There are three general fixes for this problem: reduce the weight, strengthen the frame, or add cross-braces to prevent the wheels from cambering. Strengthening the frame usually involves adding even more weight. So if you can, strive for the first solution instead reduce the weight.
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18.5 FRAME SAGGING CAUSED BY WEIGHT
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If you can t reduce weight, look for ways to add support beams or braces to prevent sagging. An extra cross-brace along the wheelbase (perhaps stretched between the two motors) may be all that s required to prevent the problem. The cross-brace can be made of lightweight aluminum tubing or even from a wooden dowel. The tubing or dowel does not need to support any weight; it simply needs to act as a brace to prevent compression when the frame sags and the wheels camber. Yet another method is to apply extreme camber to the wheels, as shown in Fig. 18-2. This minimizes the negative effects of any sagging, and if the tires have a high frictional surface traction is not diminished. However, don t do this with smooth, hard plastic wheels as they don t provide sufficient traction. You can camber the wheels outward or inward. Inward (negative) camber was used in the old Topo and Bob robots made by Nolan Bushnell s failed Androbot company of the mid-1980s. The heavy-duty robot in Fig. 18-2 uses outward (positive) camber. The robot can easily support over 20 lbs in addition to its own weight, which is about 10 lbs, with battery, which is slung under the frame using industrialstrength hook-and-loop (Velcro or similar) fasteners.
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FIGURE 18-2 This Tee-Bot (so named because it employs the T-braces used for home construction) uses extreme camber to avoid the frame sagging that results from too much weight.
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PRINCIPLES OF ROBOT LOCOMOTION
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18.6 Horizontal Center of Balance
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Your robot s horizontal center of balance (think of it as a balance scale) indicates how well the weight of the robot is distributed on its base. If all the weight of a robot is to one side, for example, then the base will have a lopsided horizontal center of balance. The result is an unstable robot: the robot may not travel in a straight line and it might even tip over. Ideally, the horizontal center of balance of a robot should be the center of its base (see Fig. 18-3a). Some variation of this theme is allowable, depending on the construction of the robot. For a robot with a single balancing caster, as shown in Fig. 18-3b, it is usually acceptable to place more weight over the drive wheels and less on the caster. This increases traction, and as long as the horizontal center of balance isn t extreme there is no risk that the robot will tip over. Unequal weight distribution is the most troublesome result if the horizontal center of bal-
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FIGURE 18-3 The distribution of weight on a robot affects its stability and traction. a. Centering the weight down the middle in a robot with two balancing casters; b. sliding the center of balance toward the drive wheel in a single-caster bot.
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