Postprint version. Published in Robotica, Volume 27, Issue 2, March 1, 2009, pages 291-302. Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0263574708004712.
In this paper, we propose a decentralized robust control algorithm for modular and reconfigurable robots (MRRs) based on Lyapunov’s stability analysis and backstepping techniques. In using decentralized control schemes with robot manipulators, each joint is considered as an independent subsystem, and the dynamical effects from the other links and joints are treated as disturbance. However, there exist many uncertainties due to unmodeled dynamics, varying payloads, harmonic drive (HD) compliance, HD complex gear meshing mechanisms, etc. Also, while the reconfigurability of MRRs is advantageous, modifying the configuration will result in changes to the robot dynamics parameters, thereby making it challenging to tune the control system. All the above mentioned disturbances in addition to reconfigurability present a challenge in controlling MRRs. The proposed controller is well-suited for MRR applications because of its simple structure that does not require the exact knowledge of the dynamic parameters of the configurations. Desired tracking performance can be achieved via tuning a limited set of parameters of the robust controller. If the numbers of degrees of freedom are held constant, these parameters are shown to be relatively independent of the configuration, and can be held constant between changes in configuration. This strategy is novel compared to existing MRR control methods. In order to validate the controller performance, experimental setup and results are also presented.