Passive environmentally adaptive mechanism using differential mechanisms
It is an extremely important task for researchers to develop an efficient mobile mechanism for robots that are required to operate in irregular environments, such as the rubble of collapsed building after earthquake. To overcome those weaknesses of traditional robot systems, we have proposed a novel crawler mechanism with polymorphic locomotion. This mechanism, which is equipped with a planetary gear reducer, makes use of only one actuator to provide two outputs. By determining the reduction ratio of two outputs in a suitable proportion, the crawler is capable of switching autonomously between two locomotion modes according to the terrain. To use widely this crawler in more robot systems conveniently, a modular concept is thus proposed. As an individual drive module, the crawler module can be easily mounted to any robot body through the flange interface (including mechanical and electrical interfaces). The mechanical design of a modular crawler is conducted. As an example of its application, a four-module-driven robot is realized by easily assembling four units of the modular crawler to a robot body.