In this paper we study the modeling and control of robot manipulators with elastic joints. We first derive a simple model to represent the dynamics of elastic joint manipulators. The model is derived under two assumptions regarding dynamic coupling between the actuators and the links, and is useful for cases where the elasticity in the joints is of greater significance than gyroscopic interactions between the motors and links. In the limit as the joint stiffness tends to infinity, our model reduces to the usual rigid model found in the literature, showing the reasonableness of our modeling assumptions. We show that our model is significantly more tractable with regard to controller design than previous nonlinear models that have been used to model elastic joint manipulators. Specifically, the nonlinear equations of motion that we derive are shown to be globally linearizable by diffeomorphic coordinate transformation and nonlinear static state feedback, a result that does not hold for previously derived models of elastic joint manipulators. We also detail an alternate approach to nonlinear control based on a singular perturbation formulation of the equations of motion and the concept of integral manifold. We show that by a suitable nonlinear feedback, the manifold in state space which describes the dynamics of the rigid manipulator, that is, the manipulator without joint elasticity, can be made invariant under solutions of the elastic joint system. The implications of this result for the control of elastic joint robots are discussed.

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