This paper presents a study of different force control schemes for controlling contact during manipulation tasks at the microscale. Explicit force control and impedance control are compared in a contact transition scenario consisting of a compliant microforce sensor mounted on a microrobotic positioner, and a compliant microstructure fabricated using Silicon MEMS. A traditional double mass-spring-damper model of the overall robot is employed to develop the closed-loop force controllers. Specific differences between the two control schemes due to the microscale nature of contact are highlighted in this paper from the experimental results obtained. The limitations and tradeoffs of the two control laws at the microscale due to the presence of backlash are discussed. A simple method to deal with the pull-off force effects specific to the microscale is proposed. Future improvements of the impedance control schemes to include adaptation are discussed in order to handle objects with unknown stiffness.

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