Robots are widely used as substitutes for humans in situations involving repetitive tasks where a precise and repeatable motion is required. Sports technology is an area which has seen an increase in the implementation of robots which simulate specific human motions required for a sport. One purpose is to test sports equipment, where the requirement is for a motion to be performed with consistent variables. One issue which has arisen frequently in the robot simulation of humans is the inherent presence of vibration excited in a flexible object being manipulated by a robot, and this issue is not unfounded in the situation presented in this research, of a golf robot manipulating a flexible golf club during the simulation of a golf swing. It had been found that during robotic simulations of golf swings performed with the Miyamae Robo V at the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University, swing variables such as shaft deformation and clubhead orientation were dissimilar to those measured for human golf swings. Vibrations present in the golf club were identified as the key cause of the disparity between human and robot swing variables. This research sought to address this issue and find a method which could be applied to reduce clubhead vibrations present in robot simulations of a golf swing to improve their similarity to human swings. This would facilitate the use of the golf robot for equipment testing and club fitting.
Golf swing variables were studied and measured for 14 human subjects with the aim being to understand the motion that the robot is required to simulate. A vibration damping gripper was then fitted to the robot to test the effect that changing the interface between the robot-excited vibrations and the club would have, this was achieved with a selection of silicone sleeves with differing material properties which could be attached to the club. Preliminary results showed a noticeable reduction in clubhead vibrations and this solution was investigated further. Mathematically modelling the robot was seen as the most suitable method for this as it meant the robot remained functional and allowed a number of solutions to be tested. Several iterations of a mathematical model were developed with the final model being structurally similar to the robot with the addition of a compliant grip and wrist. The method by which the robot is driven was also recognised as having a large effect on the level of vibration excited in the clubhead and the methodology behind generating smooth robot swing profiles is presented. The mathematical model was used to perform 6 swings and the resulting shaft deformation and clubhead vibration were compared with data from human swings. It was found that the model was capable of producing swing variables comparable to human swings, however in the downswing portion of the swing the magnitude of these variables were larger for the simulations. Simulations were made which sought to demonstrate the difference between the model replicating the rigid robot and a compliant system. Reductions in vibration were achieved in all swings, including those driven with robot feedback data which contains oscillations excited by the method with which the robot is driven.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.