Modifying the design of an existing system to meet the needs of a new task is a common activity in mechatronic system development. Often, engineers seek to meet requirements for the new task via control design changes alone, but in many cases new requirements are impossible to meet using control design only; physical system design modifications must be considered. Plant-limited co-design (PLCD) is a design methodology for meeting new requirements at minimum cost through limited physical system (plant) design changes in concert with control system redesign. The most influential plant changes are identified to narrow the set of candidate plant changes. PLCD provides quantitative evidence to support strategic plant design modification decisions, including tradeoff analyses of redesign cost and requirement violation. In this article the design of a counterbalanced robotic manipulator is used to illustrate successful PLCD application. A baseline system design is obtained that exploits synergy between manipulator passive dynamics and control to minimize energy consumption for a specific pick-and-place task. The baseline design cannot meet requirements for a second pick-and-place task through control design changes alone. A limited set of plant design changes is identified using sensitivity analysis, and the PLCD result meets the new requirements at a cost significantly less than complete system redesign.

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