The direct-drive arm that has no gears between motors and their loads have several important advantages including no backlash, small friction, and high mechanical stiffness. The arm mechanism, however, becomes extremely massive, when each motor is directly attached to its joint along a serial linkage mechanism. The complicated dynamics resulting from varying inertia, interactions, and nonlinearities, is also more prominent than that of a robot with gears. This paper describes a lightweight arm mechanism with invariant and decoupled inertia characteristics. Instead of having motors at serial joints, a parallel drive mechanism with a closed-loop five bar linkage is utilized. The dynamic behavior of this mechanism is analyzed and the condition for the elimination of the interactions and nonlinearities in the mass properties is derived. The decoupled and invariant arm dynamics significantly reduces the complexity of controlling the direct-drive arm. In the latter half of the paper, a prototype robot developed on this basis is described. By using high torque brushless motors which were specially designed for the direct-drive robot, top speed and maximum acceleration were increased by an order-of-magnitude to about 10 m/s and 5 G, respectively.

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