Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to propose two simple tools for the kinematic characterization of hexapods. The paper also aims to share the experience of converting a popular commercial motion base (Stewart‐Gough platform, hexapod) to an industrial robot for use in heavy duty aerospace manufacturing processes. Design/methodology/approach – The complete workspace of a hexapod is a six‐dimensional entity that is impossible to visualize. Thus, nearly all hexapod manufacturers simply state the extrema of each of the six dimensions, which is very misleading. As a compromise, a special 3D subset of the complete workspace is proposed, an approximation of which can be readily obtained using a computer‐aided design (CAD)/computer‐aided manufacturing (CAM) software suite, such as computer‐aided 3D interactive application (CATIA). While calibration techniques for serial robots are readily available, there is still no generally agreed procedure for calibrating hexapods. The paper proposes a simple calibration method that relies on the use of a laser tracker and requires no programming at all. Instead, the design parameters of the hexapod are directly and individually measured and the few computations involved are performed in a CAD/CAM software such as CATIA. Findings – The conventional octahedral hexapod design has a very limited workspace, though free of singularities. There are important deviations between the actual and the specified kinematic model in a commercial motion base. Practical implications – A commercial motion base can be used as a precision positioning device with its controller retrofitted with state‐of‐the‐art motion control technology with accurate workspace and geometric characteristics. Originality/value – A novel geometric approach for obtaining meaningful measures of the workspace is proposed. A novel, systematic procedure for the calibration of a hexapod is outlined. Finally, experimental results are presented and discussed.
Industrial Robot: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 12, 2010
Keywords: Calibration; Aerospace industry; Kinematics; Robotics
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