This article describes design specifications of a new sensor that can accurately measure the torsion moment in a direct-drive robot, even in the presence of strong overhang, thrust forces, and bending moments. Introducing a torque sensor into a robot joint adds flexibility. Although torsional flexibility can be compensated for by sophisticated controllers, deflection in the other axes is more problematic. Consequently, another design criterion dictates high stiffness in non-torsional directions. The sensor design must optimize, and trade off among several conflicting design criteria. Also, many design iterations are required to arrive at a final design. Despite this complexity, it is possible to arrive at a novel basic sensor design. Thin-section rectangular bars experience high stress/ strain concentrations under torsion loads, which yield high sensitivity without sacrificing stiffness. This fact suggests that an appropriate structure should be primarily stressed by torsion. The team used the finite element analysis (FEA) capabilities of I-DEAS from Structural Dynamics Research Corp. to finalize the dimensions so that performance would be optimized. FEA was also used to select the location and proper size of the strain gauges.

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