Modular Robots – MTRAN3 – 11011
Robot That can Change Shape
What is M-TRAN ?
M-TRAN (Modular Transformer) is a self-reconfigurable modular robot that has been developed by AIST and Tokyo-Tech since 1998. A number of M-TRAN modules can form
-a 3-D structure which changes its own configuration
-a 3-D structure which generates smaller robots
-a multi-DOF robot which flexibly locomotes
-a robot which metamorphoses
The M-TRAN system can change its 3-D structure and its motion in order to adapt itself to the environment. In small sized configuration, it walks in a form of legged robot, then metamorphoses into a snake-like robot to enter narrow spaces. A large structure can gradually change its configuration to make a flow-like motion, climb a step by transporting modules one by one, and produce a tower structure to look down. It can also generate multiple walkers. Possible applications of the M-TRAN are autonomous exploration under unknown environment such as planetary explorations, or search and rescue operation in disaster areas.
The design of M-TRAN has the advantages of both two types of modular robots, lattice type and chain (linear) type. This hybrid design, unique 3-D shape of the block parts, and parallel joint axes are all keys to realize a flexible self-reconfigurable robotic system.
An M-TRAN module is composed of two blocks (1/2 cubic & 1/2 cylindrical) and a link (Fig.1). Each of the three flat surfaces of each block can mechanically connect and couple with a surface of another module. All the connection surfaces have their gender and an active (male) surface can couple with a passive (female) surface (Fig. 1) in four possible relative orientations (Fig. 2). The connection is controlled by the module itself.
-Lattice type feature: Each block rotates about its axis by the joint motor. If all the joint angles are either 0, 90 or -90 degrees, all the blocks align on the regular cubic lattice. Lattice structure is useful for self-reconfiguration.
-Chain type feature: When all the joint angles are controlled synchronously, the whole body realizes a flexible robotic motion.
Each M-TRAN module has its own controller and intelligence, and all the controllers work cooperatively forming a Distributed Autonomous System as a whole.
Snake Form of M-TRAN