Robots have been used for material handling for many years, and their applications have greatly expanded with the integration of intelligent technologies. While numerous researchers have proposed various robots for this field, it is crucial to design customized configurations that are suitable for agricultural farms. However, research in our country has been limited to a few mobile agricultural robots. The main focus of this paper is to design and model workspaces and analyze the kinematics of manipulators in agricultural settings.
Materials and Methods
This article investigates the workspace and kinematics of a robot manipulator to design and manufacture a four-DOF manipulator for farming. This manipulator will be capable of performing a variety of tasks, but the goal of this project is to enable it to load and unload materials and products on the farm as an auxiliary force for the farmer.
When designing and analyzing a manipulator, the first step is to determine the specific task that the robotic arm will perform. For example, consider a scenario where the task involves loading or unloading forage packages from a trailer at a designated location. This task specification forms the basis for further design and analysis, ensuring that the manipulator is appropriately designed to meet the requirements of the task.
An intelligent robotic arm that is attached to a tractor can perform this operation in the shortest possible time without the intervention of human workers. Otherwise, a large number of laborers would be required to move boxes weighing 10 kg over distances of 3 to 4 meters and heights of 1 to 2 meters, which would require a great deal of torque.
At this stage, the design of the arm kinematics model, direct kinematic equations, velocity kinematics, and Jacobian matrix solving were performed. The calculations were carried out using two methods: manual calculation and kinematic modeling in MATLAB software for three arm configurations in two simulation tests. The results of both methods were compared.
The workspace analysis of the selected manipulator configurations, as well as the use of arm kinematic performance evaluation indices, were illustrated in graphs.
Results and Discussion
The issue of moving forage packages on the farm is described below. If a farmer were to move 48 packages of fodder weighing about 10 kg manually (using human workers) in the workspace modeled in Figure 10, each package would take an average of 30 seconds to be moved reciprocally along an unobstructed path. Hence, it would take approximately 24 minutes to move all the packages. However, the linear speed of the final operator of the robot arm during the first test was found to be 1 meter per second, which is 3.7 times faster than the manual work scenario, and the total movement of the packages can be completed in about 6.5 minutes.
Upon analyzing the velocity diagrams of the final performer in both tests, it becomes evident that there is not much variation in speed and acceleration due to the change in configurations. The evaluation of robot workspace indicators was conducted using two methods: workspace index and structural length index. These indicators were calculated for all three configurations, and the results indicated that Configuration Type 1 was the most suitable option. Furthermore, the manipulability index of the robot arm was assessed based on the obtained diagrams for all three configurations in the two tests. It was observed that Configuration Type 1 outperformed the other two types in terms of score, indicating its superior performance. This aligns with the suggestion made by Yoshigawa for the first three joints of the Puma robot.
Overall, the results suggest that Configuration Type 1 is one of the most favorable options, ensuring better performance for the final performer.
One of the main considerations when using robots in agriculture is the appropriate kinematic design of joints and links for work operations. Using the example of robots assisting with moving products on the ground, it can be seen that using robots significantly reduces the time required compared to manual labor. Furthermore, in terms of energy consumption and cost within a certain period, the use of robots has economic justification.
Based on the studies conducted, Configuration Type 1 passed the kinematic path in both tests with a higher manipulability index and a more suitable workspace index based on both calculated criteria. Therefore, this configuration is recommended for the design of robots for the operation of moving products on the ground.
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