This paper focuses on the design of an observer-based backstepping controller (BC) for a nonlinear hydraulic differential cylinder system. The system is affected by some uncertainties including modeling errors, external disturbances, and measurement noise. An observer-based control approach is proposed to assure suitable tracking performance and to increase robustness against unknown inputs. The task to estimate system states as well as unknown inputs is performed by a linear proportional-integral-observer (PIO). Input–output linearization is used to linearize the nonlinear system model to be used for the PIO structure. On the other hand, BC is utilized based on nonlinear system model to construct the Lyapunov function and to design the control input simultaneously. Stability or negativeness of the derivative of every-step Lyapunov function is fulfilled. Structural improvement regarding the combination of BC and PIO is the main aim of this contribution. This is supported by a novel stability proof and new conditions for the whole control loop with integrated PIO. Furthermore, parameter selection of BC is elaborately considered by defining a performance/energy criterion. A complete robustness evaluation considering different levels of additional measurement noise, modeling errors, and external disturbances is presented for the first time in this contribution. Experimental results validate the advantages of proposed observer-based approach compared to PIO-based sliding mode control (PIO-SMC) and industrial standard P-controller.

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