We present the design and initial results of a power-autonomous planar monopedal robot. The robot is a gasoline powered, two degree of freedom robot that runs in a circle, constrained by a boom. The robot uses hydraulic Series Elastic Actuators, force-controllable actuators which provide high force fidelity, moderate bandwidth, and low impedance. The actuators are mounted in the body of the robot, with cable drives transmitting power to the hip and knee joints of the leg. A two-stroke, gasoline engine drives a constant displacement pump which pressurizes an accumulator. Absolute position and spring deflection of each of the Series Elastic Actuators are measured using linear encoders. The spring deflection is translated into force output and compared to desired force in a closed loop force-control algorithm implemented in software. The output signal of each force controller drives high performance servo valves which control flow to each of the pistons of the actuators.
In designing the robot, we used a simulation-based iterative design approach. Preliminary estimates of the robot's physical parameters were based on past experience and used to create a physically realistic simulation model of the robot. Next, a control algorithm was implemented in simulation to produce planar hopping. Using the joint power requirements and range of motions from simulation, we worked backward specifying pulley diameter, piston diameter and stroke, hydraulic pressure and flow, servo valve flow and bandwidth, gear pump flow, and engine power requirements. Components that meet or exceed these specifications were chosen and integrated into the robot design. Using CAD software, we calculated the physical parameters of the robot design, replaced the original estimates with the CAD estimates, and produced new joint power requirements. We iterated on this process, resulting in a design which was prototyped and tested.
The Monopod currently runs at approximately 1.2 m/s with the weight of all the power generating components, but powered from an off-board pump. On a test stand, the eventual on-board power system generates enough pressure and flow to meet the requirements of these runs and we are currently integrating the power system into the real robot. When operated from an off-board system without carrying the weight of the power generating components, the robot currently runs at approximately 2.25 m/s. Ongoing work is focused on integrating the power system into the robot, improving the control algorithm, and investigating methods for improving efficiency.