Path planning for reconfigurable htetro robot combining heat conduction-based and discrete optimization


Do H., Vu Le A., Weeger O., Mohan R.E., Guo Y., Tan N.N., Vu M.B., Van Duc P.

Source title

IEEE Access

Publication year

Self-reconfigurable robots present advanced solutions for various automation applications in domains, e.g., planetary exploration, rescue missions, cleaning, and maintenance. These robots have the ability to change their morphology according to given requirements or adapt to new circumstances, which, for example, can overcome constraints while navigating within a working environment. However, the autonomous navigation of self-reconfigurable robots is more complex than that of robots with fixed shape because of the intrinsic complexity of robot motions, especially in complicated obstacle environments. To address this challenge, we present a novel path planning method for reconfigurable robots in this study. The technique is inspired by the similarity between a robot motion path and a heat conduction path at the steady-state. In the heat transfer analysis domain, feasible moving locations are modeled as materials with high conductivity, while obstacles are considered thermal insulators, and the initial and destination positions are assigned as heat sink and heat source, respectively. The temperature profile and gradient calculated by finite element analysis are used to indicate the possible moving directions from the heat sink to the heat source. Based on the temperature gradient ascent, a step-wise conductivity reaching algorithm is developed to optimize robot paths using customized multi-objective functions that take the costs of morphology changes, path smoothness, and safety into account. The proposed path planning method is successfully applied to the hinged-tetro self-reconfigurable robot and demonstrated on several virtual environments and a real-world testbed environment.