Final Project Report:

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Final Project
Report:

NSF PII award #0849008

October 15, 2011

James W. Beard, PI


“Developing a Mobile, Robotic Welding System”



Executive Summary:

This is the
Final report for the project award 0849008

, “Developing a Mobile Robotic Welding System” cover
ing
the period
2
/1/
09

through
10
/1
5
/
1
1
.

This project

includes the original STTR Phase II award and the TECP
supplement. T
his report serve
s as the final report for both activities.


Many industries such as large shipbuilding and site
-
based fabrication and

construction do not lend themselves to
traditional assembly line robotic systems. Large military ships, for example, tend to be unique with each
successive ship manufactured having different characteristics. The size and scale of a typical ship combined w
ith
the high costs associated with dry
-
docks or real
-
estate immediately adjacent to the launch location has led toward
a common manufacturing technique in which the structural components of the ship are assembled in multiple
locations with only the final a
ssembly occurring in the most expensive location. We call these “unstructured
environments” because the building process is not regular (i.e., is not highly dimensionalized). Robotic systems in
these environments must be mobile, flexible and adaptable. Thi
s creates a unique set of challenges that this
project has addressed.


Mobile robotics (robotic systems capable of navigating through the environment to perform motion control tasks)
provides new opportunities to improve worker productivity in unstructured

environments. Robotic Technologies
of Tennessee (RTT) and its University partner, Tennessee Technological University (TTU) have a history of
developing automated mobile robotic platforms in unstructured environments such as the power production and
shipb
uilding industries. Under the NSF STTR program, Robotic Technologies of Tennessee (RTT) has
developed and commercialized a climbing mobile robotic welding system suited for welding in unstructured
environments such as shipyards or construction of large st
ructures. This system is called the Mobile Robotic
Welding System (MRWS). The MRWS is capable of mechanizing weld processes while operating in inverted
positions, even upside down.


When compared to manual welding processes or track based automated sys
tems, the MRWS increases
productivity, safety and quality. This system allows the weld technician to perform the weld process remotely
making the job safer and more comfortable for the operator. This tends to reduce work place injuries related to
repetitiv
e motion and flying debris. In addition, the ability to control the welding from a control device allows the
worker to remain in a comparatively better ergonomic position which enables older and less physically healthy
welders to perform in their jobs long
er. Finally, the MRWS better matches the expectations of younger
generations of workers giving industrial recruiters a better chance of attracting young workers to join the industry
(i.e., the industry is having trouble finding workers).


This system has
been approved and qualified for the most stringent welding processes (NAVY requirements for
ships) by several Tier
-
I shipbuilding manufacturers. Two commercial versions of the MRWS have been
developed under the NSF STTR program. These systems are in use
at the largest US shipyards. RTT’s mobile
robotic welding systems have been a featured technology of the National Shipbuilding Research and have been
featured at several industry forums (Shiptech 2009


2011, Fabtech 2010, 2011).


The primary commercial

focus for the RTT team is to
a
chieve broad
-
based support from shipyards, demonstrated
through regular use, commitment to the product, and
a target level of sales. As the project ends, RTT is well on
the way to achieving this broad
-
base support. We are c
urrently negotiating with
several large manufacturing
companies to identify an appropriate teaming agreement
.


Commercialization

and Dissemination
:

The team has been active in building shipyard support to move toward
partnership with a commercialized pro
duct

as discussed above, with formal meetings
held with
new product
development personnel from ESAB and Illinois Tool Works, the parent company of Miller

and Fronius.

RTT
has been

regularly

invited
to
present at ShipTech.

Shiptech is a

avy sponsored m
eeting for all shipyards
.

At the
Shiptech 2011
meeting, RTT
hosted a w
orkshop on robotic automation

for shipbuilding with nearly 30 shipyard
personnel in attendance.


In summary, t
he milestones
planned for this project
have been met. RTT has reached a
commercialization stage
and is making sales and supporting product in the field. RTT has established one distributor in the Gulf
-
Coast
region. RTT is pursuing a teaming agreement with a larger manufacturer to expand the rate of growth of unit
sales and t
o target larger (national, worldwide) markets. A
collection of photographs showing RTT’s MRWS in
production are including in the following figures.



The remainder of this report will summarize the progress on
all tasks associated with the project.
This
is first
summarized in a table that lists tasks, deliverables, dates completed and percentage complete. A detailed
discussion of each task and the work performed on each task is provided in appendix A, Summary of work on
project tasks.






Fig.

1 Advanced MRWS
-
100

in Production



MRWS
-
Mini

Light weight, portable, highly mobile system for remote welding







Operator
performing weld remotely with
Control Pendant Arc Viewing

1.
Summary of Project Tasks and Subtask
s:

The overall progress toward the project tasks are summarized in the following table, with the last two columns
indicated the percentage and date completed.
The table is color coded as follows:

Tasks Completed

Tasks Underway

No Significant Progress Ye
t


Table I: Summary of Progress on Project Tasks:

Task

Task Description

%
complete

date
compl
eted

Objective I:
Advance Climbing Robot Platform

Task I.1

Perform advanced modeling and design on platform suspension
components to prepare for in
-
field climbi
ng surface conditions.

100%

8/15/09

Task I.2

Evaluate and optimize material performance in tandem with kinematic
design of the suspension components to survive extended in
-
field
conditions.

100%

8/15/09

Task I.3

Design the MRWS platform to meet the shipb
uilder requests of outdoor
operation and reduced system weight.

100%

8/15/09

Task I.4

Create advanced model of magnetic fields created by the robot tractive
members and the weld arc, and use in advanced prototype design.

100%

8/15/09

Deliverables

1.

Enhance
d prototype MRWS robot platform design meeting the
performance and requirements specified by the shipbuilders.

2.

Multiple design options for locating welding torch manipulator

1
-
100%

2
-
100%

8/15/09

Objective II:
Advance Design of Torch Manipulator

Task I
I.1

Extend the kinematic and dynamic models of the torch manipulator to
include the effects of compliance on the system.

100%

8/15/09

Task II.2

Explore advanced inverse dynamic control algorithms and mechanical
designs to isolate dynamic disturbances at t
he torch tip.

100%

8/15/09

Task II.3

Incorporate precise and repeatable torch work travel, depth, work angle,
and travel angle adjustments into the torch manipulator.

100%

8/15/09

Task II.4

Design the torch manipulator for easy access by operators to the

weld
torch

100%

8/15/09

Deliverables

1.

Torch manipulator design with enhancements to improve
performance and usability in the field.

100%

8/15/09

Objective III:
Advance Robot Control and Navigation System

Task III.1

Define the expected conditions the co
ntrol system will have to overcome
in the field tests.

100%

8/15/09

Task III.2

Develop a navigation and control algorithm to accommodate non
-
ideal
conditions defined in III.1.

100%

8/15/09

Task III.3

Develop class of additional autonomous behaviors neede
d to handle in
-
field conditions (e.g., alignment to weld seam, start and stop, obstacle
avoidance)

100%

8/15/09

Task III.4

Implement the control and navigation system into the advanced MRWS
prototype

100%

8/15/09

Deliverables

1.

Advanced MRWS control and na
vigation system capable of
handling real
-
world conditions in manufacturing environment

100%

8/15/09

Objective IV:
Seam Tracking and Identification System

Task IV.1

Using the lessons learned from the Phase I vision system, develop
criteria to be met in th
e new vision system design.

100%

8/15/09

Task IV.2

Create basic overview of vision system design, select parts from COTS
components as available, integrate with the MRWS platform.

100%

12/15/09

Task IV.3

Develop image processing algorithms (combination o
f commercial
algorithms and modules developed by RTT) to identify the shape and
centerline of the weld seam.

100
%

6
/15/
10

Task IV.4

Create interface between output from image system and robot control
algorithm

100
%

8
/
30
/09

Task IV.5

Combine all hardwar
e and the software developments and incorporate on
to the advanced MRWS prototype

100
%

6
/15/
10

Deliverables

1.

Hardware selection, image processing algorithms, system
embedded on robot platform

2.

MRWS advanced prototype

complete with tracking system based
on o
perator feedback

100 %

6
/15/
10

Objective V:
Develop Human
-
Robot Interface (HRI) for Multi
-
DOF Welding System

Task V.1

Collect additional input on necessary control functions and desired
formats of HRI as well as the desired information to be reported fro
m the
robot system.

100%

3/15/10

Task V.2

Incorporate hardware to allow the operator to setup and control the vision
seam tracking system (tasks described Objective 4) from the HRI.

100%

3/15/10

Task V.3

Design the layout of the HRI to effectively presen
t all control parameters
and minimize the overall size of the unit.

100%

3/15/10

Task V.4

Incorporate into the HRI the ability for the robot to provide feedback to the
operator during the weld process.

100%

3/15/10

Deliverables

1.

Design of rugged, compact
HRI suitable for use with MRWS
advanced prototype during the extended field tests.

100%

3/15/10

Objective VI:
Meet Weld Cert. Requirements and Remote Weld Viewing Capability

Task VI.1

Select a camera system that offers a suitable picture of the welding
p
rocess in the immediate vicinity of arc.

100
%

6
/15/10

Task VI.2

Integrate the camera on to the MRWS, iterating to find the ideal position
yielding the best viewing angle for visual characterization of the weld.

100
%

6
/15/10

Task VI.3

Collect input from w
elders and repeat VI.2 to satisfy their requirements.

100%

6/15/10

Task VI.4

Provide the video data to the operator though integration with the robot
control pendant.

100
%

12
/15/10

Deliverables

1.

Identified camera system for MRWS platform.

2.

MRWS platform wi
th the camera integrated and feedback
provided in the robot control pendant.

100 %

3/15/10

Objective VII:

Fabricate Advanced Prototypes of the MRWS Ready for Extended, In
-
Field Testing

Task VII.1

Fabricate all components of the MRWS prototypes for the ex
tended
field tests

100%

3/15/10

Task VII.2

Assemble advanced MRWS prototype

100%

8/30/10

Deliverables

1.

Advanced MRWS prototype (1
-
3) ready for field testing.

100%

8/30/10

Objective VIII:
Prove MRWS in the Extended In
-
Field Tests

Task VIII.1

Develop the
extended, in
-
field test plan.

100%

3/15/10

Task VIII.2

Perform first stage tests, (advanced in
-
lab tests), modify platform design
as needed

100%

5/15/10

Task VIII.3

Perform second
-
stage (primary) tests, Define details of environment for
field testing.

10
0%

6/30/10

Task VIII.4

Perform qualification tests on MRWS in
-
field

100%

3/30/10

Task VIII.5

Perform in field testing at commercial shipyard

10
0%

2
/
15
/1
1

Task VIII.6

Modify platform design based on evaluation of in
-
field testing

10
0%

3/1/11

Deliverable
s

1.

Results from laboratory testing or MRWS.

2.

Results from field testing at commercial shipyard in a production
environment.

3.

Enhanced prototype MRWS platform with extensive field history.

100
%

3/1/11

Objective IX:
Explore Future Commercialization Opportuniti
es

Task IX.1

Document the requirements for the new applications and design
modifications.

10
0
%

6
/
1
/1
1

Task IX.2

Develop a path to commercialization by building on current market
development.

100
%

6
/
1
/1
1

Deliverables

1.

Plan to upgrade and extend platforms
to two advanced
applications.

2.

Commercialization plan for these two products

100
%

6/1/11

Objective X:
Technology Transfer, Dissemination and Final Reporting

X.1

Disseminate project results through industry panels, appropriate
conference or journal, market

development activities

10
0
%

8/1/
1
1

X.2

Prepare final reporting material

100%

10/15/11

Deliverables

1.

Executed dissemination plan

2.

Final report

100%

10/15/11





TECP Objective I: Adapt MRWS system for control of inspection transducer

TECP I.1

Reconfigur
e existing MRWS manipulator to meet NDE
requirements

100
%

6/15/11

TECP I.2

Reconfigure MRWS to adapt commercial transducers

100
%

6/15/11

TECP I.
3

Test positioning requirements

100
%

6/15/11

TECP I.
4

Evaluation system

100
%

6/15/11

TECP I.
5

Adapt / Modif
y interpass cleaning system for inspection
application

100
%

3/15/11

Deliverables

1.

Manipulator system able to meet standard UT positioning
requirements

2.

Surface cleaning system integrated in system

100
%

6/15/11

TECP Objective 2: Modify system to reconfigure

for various structures.

TECP II.1

Determine mobility needed for typical structures

100
%

11/15/10

TECP II.2

Modify existing MRWS chassis to meet mobility requirements

100
%

11/15/10

TECP II.3

Incorporate chassis control in operator interface

100
%

11/
15/10

Deliverables

1.

Modified MRWS system with adaptive chassis

2.

Test system on representative structres

100
%

3/15/10

TECP Objective III: Integrate data collection into the operator control system

TECP III.1

Define HMI requirements

100
%

3/15/11

TECP III.2

Modify existing MRWS controller to integrate inspection
feedback

100
%

3/15/11

Deliverables

Operator control pendant designed for inspection operations

100
%

8/15/11

TECP Objective IV: Provide feature feedback to operator in real
-
time

TECP

IV.1

Implement

filtering algorithm to operate in real
-
time for
inspection data

100
%

6/15/11

TECP
IV.2

Provide inspection results to operator during the inspection
process

100
%

8/15/11

TECP
IV.3

Add on
-
board mechanism for in
-
situ location marking

100
%

8/1/11

Deliverab
les

1.

Onboard data filtering algorithm

2.

Onboard system capable of marking specific location on a
structure

100
%

8/15/11

TECP Objective V: Integrate Objectives I
-
IV into field
-
ready inspection platform

TECP
V.1

Fabricate Inspection platform based on work fro
m objectives 1
-
4

100
%

10/15/11

TECP
V.2

Test system and modify as needed

100
%

10/15/11

TECP
V.3

Demonstrate system use in field and deliver to Synterprise

100
%

3/15/11

Deliverable

1.

Fabricated Inspection System

2.

Demonstration of advanced inspection capabil
ity

100
%

10/15/11