Novel Actuators

Novel Actuators Overview

To date, the industries that have been the driving forces of actuator technologies have demanded actuators that are precise, power-dense, fast, small, and cheap.

We face new motivations for actuator design: life-like fluid motion, quiet, continuous control, and compelling, safe and meaningful tactile interactions. To these ends, we are developing actuators that capitalize on certain prior developments, while improving upon them to better suit interactive robot demands. Specifically, we are sacrificing high precision for smoothness and quality of motion, while achieving power and torque densities that are suitable for driving mobile robots.

The goal of this project is to create voice coil-type electromagnetic actuators, with integrated position, velocity and force sensing means. Voice coils are silent, have only one moving part, are naturally smooth and linear, are very robust, have reasonable force and power densities, and are relatively inexpensive.


Novel Actuators – Prototype Actuators

A design schematic and a prototype of two voice coil actuators of different sizes are shown to the right. The larger is suitable for a shoulder actuator and the smaller for a hand.

Need picture 🙁

Novel Actuators – Arm Design

To test and demonstrate the quality of motion that can be achieved using combined position, velocity, and force control with voice coil actuators, we have designed an arm using these technologies. The current arm design shown below is comparable in size to that of a 10 year old child.

Need picture 🙁

Novel Actuators – Publications

J. McBean (2004). “Design and Control of a Voice Coil Actuated Arm for Human-Robot Interaction” Masters of Science Thesis Department of Mechanical Engineering MIT

J. McBean and C. Breazeal (2004). “Voice Coil Actuators for Human-Robot Interaction” , Proceedings of IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS04) Sendai, Japan

W. Stiehl and C. Breazeal (2005). “Design of a Therapeutic Robotic Companion for Relational, Affective Touch” Proceedings of Fourteenth IEEE Workshop on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (Ro-Man05) Nashville, TN

Actuators for more lifelike robots!