This thesis outlines the evolution of computer hardware and software
architectures which are suitable for the programming and control of
modular robots and distributed manipulators.
Fundamental aspects of automating manufacturing functions are considered
and the use of flexible machines, constructed from components of
a family of mechanical modules and associated control system elements,
are proposed. Many of the features of these flexible machines can be
identified with those of conventional industrial robots. However a broader
class of manufacturing machine is represented in as much as the
industrial user defines the kinematics and dynamics of the manipulator.
Such flexible machines can be referred to as "modular robots" or, where
the mechanical modules are arranged in concurrently operating but mechanically
decoupled groups, as "distributed manipulators".
The main body of the work reported centred on the design of a family
of computer control system elements which can serve a range of distributed
manipulator and modular robot forms. These control system elements,
whose cost is commensurate with the size and complexity of the manipulator's
mechanical configuration, necessarily have many of the features
found in robot controllers but also require properties of reconfigurability,
programmability, and control system performance for the considerable
array of manipulator configurations which can be constructed [continued]...
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
Science Engineering Research Council of Great Briton, Martonair Ltd, and Nutek (London)Ltd.