High-performance series elastic actuation
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Mobile legged robots have the potential to restructure many aspects of our lives in the near future. Whether for applications in household care, entertainment, or disaster response, these systems depend on high-performance actuators to improve their basic capabilities. The work presented here focuses on developing new high-performance actuators, specifically series elastic actuators, to address this need. We adopt a system-wide optimization approach, dealing with factors which influence performance at the levels of mechanical design, electrical system design, and control. Using this approach and based on a set of performance metrics, we produce an actuator, the UT-SEA, which achieves leading empirical results in terms of power-to-weight, force control, size, and system efficiency. We also develop general high-performance control techniques for both force- and position-controlled actuators, some of which were adopted for use on NASA-JSC's Valkyrie Humanoid robot and were used during DARPA's DRC Trials 2013 robotics competition.