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FIGURE 24.4 A Cartesian coordinate arm.
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variety of technologies. One of particular interest to hobby robot builders is shape memory alloy, or SMA, as discussed in 23. SMA material goes by a number of trade names, such as BioMetal, Dynalloy, Nitinol, and Muscle Wire. The construction of SMA material differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the activation technique is about the same: when heat is applied to the metal, it contracts to a predefined state. Heat can be applied directly, through a flame or with hot water, or by passing an electrical current through the material. The electrical activation is the technique most commonly used in robotics. A disadvantage of SMA is its slow expansion rate: the metal must cool before it relaxes and returns to its preheated shape and size. The larger the piece of metal is, the longer it takes to cool, so the slower the muscle returns to its noncontracted state. As a result, most of the shape memory alloy material you ll see available, such as Muscle Wire from Mondo-Tronics, is hair-thin. Don t let the small diameter of the wire fool you, however: Muscle Wire and many other SMA materials can bear considerable weight several pounds in both the contracted and noncontracted state. See 23 for a full discussion of shape memory alloy. Hydraulic actuation uses oil-reservoir pressure cylinders, similar to the kind used in earth-moving equipment and automobile brake systems. The fluid is noncorrosive and inhibits rust: both are the immediate ruin of any hydraulic system. Though water can be used in a hydraulic system, if the parts are made of metal they will no doubt eventually suffer from rust, corrosion, or damage by water deposits. For a simple homebrew robot, however, a water-based hydraulic system using plastic parts is a viable alternative. Pneumatic actuation is similar to hydraulic, except that pressurized air is used instead of oil or fluid (the air often has a small amount of oil mixed in it for lubrication purposes). Both hydraulic and pneumatic systems provide greater power than electrical actuation, but they are more difficult to use. In addition to the actuation cylinders themselves, such as the one shown in Fig. 24.5, a pump is required to pressurize the air or oil, and values are used to control the retraction or extension of the cylinders. For the best results, you need a holding tank to stabilize the pressurization. An interesting variation on pneumatic actuation is the Air Muscle, an ingenious combination of a small rubber tube and black plastic mesh. The rubber tube acts as an expandable bladder, and the plastic mesh forces the tube to inflate in a controllable manner. Air Muscle is available premade in various sizes; it is activated by pumping air into the tube.
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376 AN OVERVIEW OF ARM SYSTEMS
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FIGURE 24.5 One of hundreds of available sizes and styles of pneumatic cylinders. This one has a bore of about 1/2 inch and a stroke of three inches.
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When filled with air, the tube expands its width but contracts its length (by 25 percent). The result is that the tube and mesh act as a kind of mechanical muscle. The Air Muscle is said to be more efficient than the standard pneumatic cylinder, and according to its makers it has about a 400:1 power-to-weight ratio.
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Building a robotic revolute coordinate arm Building a robotic stationary polar coordinate arm Creating hands for robot arms Endowing robot arms and hands with the sense of touch
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25, Build a Revolute Coordinate Arm 26, Build a Polar Coordinate Arm 27, Experimenting with Gripper Designs 35, Adding the Sense of Touch
BUILD A REVOLUTE COORDINATE ARM
he revolute coordinate arm design provides a great deal of flexibility, yet requires few components. The arm described in this chapter enjoys only two degrees of freedom. You ll find, however, that even with two degrees of freedom, the arm can do many things. It can be used by itself as a stationary pick-and-place robot, or it can be attached to a mobile platform. The construction details given here are for a left hand; to build a right hand, simply make it a mirror image of the left. You ll note that the arm lacks a hand a gripper. You can use just about any type of gripper. In fact, you can design the forearm so it accepts many different grippers interchangeably. See 27, Experimenting with Gripper Designs, for more information on robot hands.
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