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Wheeled Vehicle Suspensions and Drivetrains
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Figure 4-27 Eight wheels, all fixed, center axles offset
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reduce the number of actuators, even with four corner steering, to eight. No known instances of this layout, shown in Figure 4-28, have been built for testing, though it seems like an effective layout. With eight wheels, there is the possibility of dividing the vehicle into two sections, each with four wheels. The two parts are then either connected through a passive joint and individually skid steered, or the joint is articulated and steering is done by bending the vehicle in the middle. This is identical to the four tracked layouts discussed and shown in chapter five. This can be a very effective layout for obstacle negotiation and crevasse crossing, but cannot turn in place. Figure 4-29 shows an example of a two-part passive joint eight-wheeled layout. Figure 4-30 adds a roll joint to aid in keeping more wheels on the ground. Another eight-wheeled layout, also applicable to a four-tracked vehicle, uses a transverse pivot, which allows the two halves to pitch up and down. It is skid steered, and is suited for bumpy terrain, but which has few obstacles it must go around. Imagine the vehicle in Figure 4-30, but with the pivot axis on its side. This layout is similar to the double rocker layout, with similar mobility and fewer moving parts. The two halves of an eight-wheeled layout can also be coupled together with a ball joint. The ball joint allows pitch, roll, and yaw between the two parts which facilitates keeping all eight wheels on the ground most of the time. The ball joint is a simple joint and can be made robust. It has a limited range of motion around two of the axis, but the third axis can rotate three hundred sixty degrees. Aligning this axis vertically aligns it in the steering axis. This allows the vehicle to have a tighter steering radius, but it cannot turn in place. Figure 4-31 shows the four-wheeled sections connected through a vertical axis ball joint. The ball joint is difficult to use with a four-wheeled vehicle because the
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Figure 4-28 Eight wheels, double bogie
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wheel torque would try to spin the section around the wheels. This problem can be reduced if the wheels are coupled together so their torques are always nearly indentical.
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Figure 4-29 Two part, eight wheeled, vertical center pivot
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Figure 4-30 Two part, eight wheeled, vertical and roll joints
For a truly complicated wheeled drive mechanism, the Tri-star LandMaster from the movie Damnation Alley is probably the most impressive. This vehicle, of which only one was built, is a two-section, center pivot steered layout with a Tri-star wheel at each corner. The Tri-star wheels consist of three wheels, all driven together, arranged in a three-
Figure 4-31 Two part, eight wheeled, vertical ball joint
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Wheeled Vehicle Suspensions and Drivetrains
pointed star on a shared hub that is also driven by the same shaft that drives the wheels. When a bump or ditch is encountered that the wheels alone cannot traverse, the whole three-wheeled system rotates around the center hub and the wheels essentially become very large cleats. The Tristar wheels are driven through differentials on the Land-Master, but powering each with its own motor would increase mobility even further.
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5
Tracked Vehicle Suspensions and Drivetrains
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here has long been a belief that tracks have inherently better mobility than wheels and anyone intending to design a high mobility vehicle should use tracks. While tracks can breeze through situations where wheels would struggle, there are only a few obstacles and terrains which would stop a six wheeled rocker bogie vehicle, but not stop a similar sized tracked vehicle. They are very soft terrain: loose sand, deep mud, and soft powder snow obstacles of a size that can get jammed between wheels crevasses They get this higher mobility at a cost of greater complexity and lower drive efficiency, so tracks are better for these situations, but not inherently better overall. Tracked vehicles first started to appear in the early 1900s and were used extensively in WWI. The basic layout used then is still in use today on heavy construction equipment; a drive sprocket at one end, an idler wheel at the other that usually serves as a tensioner, and something in between to support the tracks on the ground. This basic, simple layout is robust and easy to control. Even in its most simple form, this track layout has all of the improvements over wheels previously listed. The continuous surface in contact with the ground is what produces the benefits of tracks. The long surface combined with widths similar to wheels puts a large surface on the ground. This lowers ground pressure, allowing traveling on softer surfaces. It also provides more area for treads, increasing the number of teeth on the ground. The continuous surface eliminates a wheeled vehicle s problem of becoming high centered between the wheels on one side. A correctly sized obstacle can get caught between the wheels on one side, but the track stays on top. The wheeled vehicle can get stuck in these situations, where the track would simply roll over the obstacle. Perhaps the most important capability the continuous surface facilitates that a wheeled suspension cannot match (without undue complexity) is the ability to cross crevasses. Clever suspension components can be added to a six-wheeled or eight-wheeled vehicle to increase its nego163
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