Development of a Robotic Positioning and Tracking System for a Research Laboratory

Nneji, Stephen Obiajulu (2017). Development of a Robotic Positioning and Tracking System for a Research Laboratory. PhD thesis The Open University.



Measurement of residual stress using neutron or synchrotron diffraction relies on the accurate alignment of the sample in relation to the gauge volume of the instrument. Automatic sample alignment can be achieved using kinematic models of the positioning system provided the relevant kinematic parameters are known, or can be determined, to a suitable accuracy.

The main problem addressed in this thesis is improving the repeatability and accuracy of the sample positioning for the strain scanning, through the use of techniques from robotic calibration theory to generate kinematic models of both off-the-shelf and custom-built positioning systems. The approach is illustrated using a positioning system in use on the ENGIN-X instrument at the UK’s ISIS pulsed neutron source comprising a traditional XYZΩ table augmented with a triple axis manipulator. Accuracies better than 100microns were achieved for this compound system. Although discussed here in terms of sample positioning systems these methods are entirely applicable to other moving instrument components such as beam shaping jaws and detectors.

Several factors could lead to inaccurate positioning on a neutron or synchrotron diffractometer. It is therefore essential to validate the accuracy of positioning especially during experiments which require a high level of accuracy. In this thesis, a stereo camera system is developed to monitor the sample and other moving parts of the diffractometer. The camera metrology system is designed to measure the positions of retroreflective markers attached to any object that is being monitored. A fully automated camera calibration procedure is developed with an emphasis on accuracy. The potential accuracy of this system is demonstrated and problems that limit accuracy are discussed. It is anticipated that the camera system would be used to correct the positioning system when the error is minimal or notify the user of the error when it is significant.

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