This project presents a Robot Component Kit (RCK) which allows the assembling of a wide range of different robot driving platforms by simple combination of base components from a component kit box. Two different types of control logic are presented: A single board control logic and a distributed control logic with a CAN control bus for data exchange. The purpose of the RCK is the provision of a ready to use robot driving platform for robot research and for education in robotics at university laboratories.
Research and development of robotic applications is an innovative and interesting field. Robotic applications become more and more important in all areas of daily life. Production, life assistance, life rescue, safety and security are only a small set of application fields for future robotic applications. On the one hand ideas for new robotic applications are many in mind; on the other hand these ideas must be realized, in a first run with a prototype implementation. And here the first problems appear. What hardware, mechanics and electronics, shall be chosen to build up the prototype? Commercial-off-the-shelf components are recommended, because lots of time can be saved if no time has to be spent on the construction of dedicated mechanical and electronic parts, especially if the primary robot application is, for example, a new method for autonomous movement of the robot and the concept is implemented by software. In this case considerable effort is necessary to build up the needed hardware platform for a software target application.
On the market there exist ready to use robot hardware, like robot driving platforms, sensor modules for any kind of environment detection, robot arms and manipulators.
These hardware units are available in different sizes and power classes. These are no standard components; further, only complete systems are available, which have a small grade of freedom to realize best-fit solutions for personal applications. The result is that the application is often adapted to the given hardware rather than to adapt the hardware to the given application. This is a substantial disadvantage, because additional work is necessary over and over again to adapt a so-called ready to use hardware, which is an unsatisfactory situation.
The more special the application, the more limited the number of available and ready to use platforms may be, for example when looking for a single axis, dual axis or a triple axis driving platform for a dedicated application.
The Robot Component Kit (RCK) provides a scalable, universal driving platform for robotic applications. The RCK can be built up with two wheels (single axis plus support wheel), four wheels (dual axis) and six wheels (triple axis).
The RCK has two main application areas:
– As a base robotic driving platform to carry different experimental sensor systems for research and development activities in the field of autonomous systems.
– As an education vehicle to study robotic programming and development of control methods for a robot driving platform.
The RCK can be controlled by one Electronic Control Unit (ECU), which controls and monitors all electronic parts or by an ECU cluster of individual small ECU’s interconnected by a communication bus. The second variant is of interest for education, because such cluster structures are typical for distributed control systems. Another benefit of using individual small ECU’s for controlling the RCK is the possibility to add some “intelligence” to the several modules of the RCK by integration of specific functions into each module.