Pneumatic servo positioning systems have been in use for long time and subject to wide spectrum of studies due to their numerous advantages: inexpensive, clean, safe and high ratio of power to weight. However, the compressibility of air and the inherent non-linearity of these systems continue to make achieving accurate position control a real challenge. Conventional pneumatic servo systems are based on cylinder actuators that are difficult to control precisely due to the aforementioned nonlinearities as well as the nonlinear behavior of the air flow through the valve, the friction between the cylinder and the piston, and the stick slip effect at the low velocity of the system. In this paper, a position servo control system using a pneumatic muscle actuator is studied. Pneumatic muscle actuator is a novel type of actuator which has even higher force to weight ratio than the cylinder. In addition, muscle actuator introduces a stick slip free operation giving an interesting option for positioning systems. However, significant hysteresis and position dependant force result in a highly nonlinear system, a real challenge for good control performance. In this paper, pneumatic muscle actuator is controlled by a low-cost on/off valve with PWM-strategy instead of costly servo or proportional valve. The main processes of the system, including flow dynamics, pressure dynamics, force dynamics and load dynamics are derived to provide a full nonlinear model that captures all the major nonlinearities of the system. This model is used for analyzing and tuning the controller performances by simulations before implementing in the real system. In addition, a recently introduced method of using bipolynomial functions to model the valve flow rate is utilized to provide a continuous and invertible description of flow for controller designs. A proportional plus velocity plus acceleration controller with feed-forward component (PVA+FF) is designed based on the linearized system model. For a comparison, a sliding mode controller (SMC) based on linear as well as non-linear system model are designed. The performance of the designed controllers is studied by simulations. The stability and performance analysis includes the effects of friction modeling error and valve modeling error. The robustness of the controllers is tested by varying the payload mass of the system.

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