Collaborative robots must simultaneously be safe enough to operate in close proximity to human operators and powerful enough to assist users in industrial tasks such as lifting heavy equipment. The requirement for safety necessitates that collaborative robots are designed with low-powered actuators. However, some industrial tasks may require the robot to have high payload capacity and/or long reach. For collaborative robot designs to be successful, they must find ways of addressing these conflicting design requirements. One promising strategy for navigating this tradeoff is through the use of static balancing mechanisms to offset the robot’s self-weight, thus enabling the selection of low-powered actuators. In this paper, we introduce a novel, two degrees-of-freedom static balancing mechanism based on spring-loaded, wire-wrapped cams. We also present an optimization-based cam design method that guarantees the cams stay convex, ensures the springs stay below their extensions limits, and minimizes sensitivity to unmodeled deviations from the nominal spring constant. Additionally, we present a model of the effect of friction between the wire and the cam. Lastly, we show experimentally that the torque generated by the cam mechanism matches the torque predicted in our modeling approach. Our results also suggest that the effects of wire-cam friction are significant for non-circular cams.
Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics Open Issues