Design and optimal springs stiffness estimation of a Modular OmniCrawler in-pipe climbing Robot

Akash Singh*1    Enna Sachdeva*1    Abhishek Sarkar1    K. Madhava Krishna1   

1 IIIT Hyderabad, India   

This paper discusses the design of a novel compliant in-pipe climbing modular robot for small diameter pipes. The robot consists of a kinematic chain of 3 OmniCrawler modules with a link connected in between 2 adjacent modules via compliant joints. While the tank-like crawler mechanism provides good traction on low friction surfaces, its circular cross-section makes it holonomic. The holonomic motion assists it to re- align in a direction to avoid obstacles during motion as well as overcome turns with a minimal energy posture. Additionally, the modularity enables it to negotiate T-junction without motion singularity. The compliance is realized using 4 torsion springs incorporated in joints joining 3 modules with 2 links. For a desirable pipe diameter (Ø 75mm), the springs’ stiffness values are obtained by formulating a constraint optimization problem which has been simulated in ADAMS MSC and further validated on a real robot prototype. In order to negotiate smooth vertical bends and friction coefficient variations in pipes, the design was later modified by replacing springs with series elastic actuators (SEA) at 2 of the 4 joints.