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Volume 25 Issue 4 - Publication Date: 1 April 2006
 
Exploiting Natural Dynamics to Reduce Energy Consumption by Controlling the Compliance of Soft Actuators
 
B. Vanderborght, B. Verrelst, R. Van Ham, M. Van Damme, D. Lefeber, B. M. Y Duran, and P. Beyl Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
 
Exploiting natural dynamics for bipedal locomotion, or passive walking, is gaining interest because of its energy efficiency. However, the natural trajectories of a passive walker are fixed during the design, thus limiting its mobility. A possible solution to this problem is creating a “semi-passive walker” equipped with actuators with adaptable compliance, which allows the natural dynamics to be changed according to the situation.
This paper proposes a compliance controller, a strategy for continuously changing the compliance in such a way as to adapt the natural motion of the system to a desired trajectory. This opens up the possibility of following a range of different trajectories with a relatively low energy consumption.
The idea is to fit the controllable actuator compliance to the “natural” compliance of the desired trajectory, and combine that with trajectory tracking control. This strategy was implemented and tested on a 1-DOF pendulum setup actuated by an antagonistic pair of pleated pneumatic artificial muscles. Both simulations and measurements show that the proposed strategy for choosing actuator compliance can significantly reduce the amount of control activity and energy consumption without harming tracking precision.
 
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