The aim of this paper is the development of a modular robotic system for generic industrial applications, including assembly.
A library of robotic modules has been designed; they are divided into two categories: link modules, not actuated, and joint modules, actuated; the library is characterized by a relatively low number of elements, but allows the assembly of a wide variety of medium‐size serial robots.
The prototypes of two joint modules (a revolute joint module and a wrist module) and of some link modules have been realized. The behaviour of several serial robots composed of the designed modules has been assessed by multibody simulation. The results confirm the goodness of the proposed approach.
The two prototype modules are under test in combination with simplified modules. The further steps of the research programme will be the completion of the prototype library, and an experimental campaign on different serial chains.
Modularity allows one to achieve a great variety of robots starting from a small set of modules, in order to match different operative requirements. Moreover, modularity dramatically reduces the time‐to‐repair of the robot and consequently improves its overall availability; this is a fundamental feature for modern industrial enterprises aiming at maximizing the resources availability.
The proposed mechanical design of the revolute joint modules, based on a harmonic drive that connects two bodies in relative rotational motion, is compact and robust. Modularity is not restricted to mechanics: a distributed control system is adopted to make the reconfiguration of the robot easier and quicker.
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