4Compliance plays an important role in human-robot cooperation. However, fixed compliance, or fixed stiffness, is difficult to meet the growing needs of human machine collaboration. As a result, the robot actuator is demanded to be able to adjust its stiffness. This paper presents a stiffness control scheme for a single DOF series elastic actuator (SEA) with a linear spring mounted in series in the mechanism. In this proposed method, the output angle of the spring is measured and used to calculate the input angle of the spring, thus the equivalent stiffness of the robot actuator revealed to the human operator can be rendered in accordance to the desired stiffness. Since the techniques used in this method only involve the position information of the system, there is no need to install an expensive force/ torque sensor on the actuator. Further, the force/ torque produced by the actuator can be estimated by simply multiplying the deformation angle of the spring and its constant stiffness coefficient. The analysis of the stiffness controller is provided. Then a simulation that emulates a human operates the SEA while the stiffness controller is running is carried out and the results also validate the proposed method.
Series Elastic Actuator; SEA; stiffness control; virtual spring; human-robot collaboration