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Control of a robot manipulator in contact with the environment is usually conducted by a direct feedback control system using a force-torque sensor or an indirect impedance control scheme. Although these methods have been successfully applied to many applications, simultaneous control of force and position cannot be achieved. To cope with such problems, this paper proposes a novel design of a dual actuator unit (DAU) composed of two actuators and a planetary gear train to provide the capability of simultaneous control of position and stiffness. Since one actuator controls position and the other actuator modulates stiffness, the DAU can control the position and stiffness simultaneously at the same joint. Both the torque exerted on the joint and the stiffness of the environment can be estimated without an expensive force sensor. Various experiments demonstrate that the DAU can provide good performance for position tracking, force estimation, and environment estimation.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2010