Thursday, 16 December 2010

Updated Simulation

I have spent the last week updating and reconfiguring the Webots simulation of the Mantis. I have go to the point where I need to start testing some of the changes I am making to the walking algorithms and in particular the terrain adaptation. I was considering trying to get the 1/10 scale Mantis up and running again but decided to give the simulation another look to see if I could get the contact sensors running better and reduce the latency between Webots and the HexEngine. Currently the two are linked via TCP/IP and I am streaming data using UDP. I was thinking of writing a FACU emulation mode within the simulation that could be linked to the HexEngine via a 460Kbps serial link, which should reduce any latency further and guarantee packet ordering, but having fiddled around with the UPD code for a day or two while simultaneously adding feature to the model things are currently working pretty well!

New simulation model takes on a tough slope!
 I have added some very useful LED's to the model, one at each joint on the leg, one on the foot and one at the ankle. These give a great visual indication of joint limit warnings and errors, and contact detection respectively. I have also cleaned up the Webots controller code so I can switch on and off features using the keyboard instead of re-compiling.

I have two versions of the Mantis, one with terrain which has been really useful for testing my algorithms, and monitoring behaviour. Still getting contact latency between the simulation and the Engine, and the feet sometimes disappear below the terrain and get stuck! but generally the results are good, as you can see in the images, I'm pretty sure we won't have the power or grip to climb a lope as shown!

I don't thing the real Mantis could have climbed that slope!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

GreyHill 3D65 display

I have borrowed a 3D65 from EAO for evaluation purposes. It arrived today and already I have the unit up and running and the eVC4 tool suite installed. However I couldn't get connected to the 3D65, and couldn't find any LAN setup or configuration. Upon contacting Grayhill support, it turned out I had a cut down OS with no LAN support, they sent me a new file which I have installed and the LAN and debug link to eVC4 is now working.


Lest hope this never happens

This is why we simulate changes prior to testing on the machine :)


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Belly of the Beast!

I just found these images Josh took the day we moved from Wokingham, he placed his camera on the floor under the Mantis as it was lifted onto the truck, great shot of the guts.

Right middle is the accumulator, centre blue item is the flow meter, above is the tank, front silver blocks are two of the six manifolds.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

November round-up, and the snow has come early!

Snow has come early this year, so I have not been able to get in to Romsey to the new unit, but at least it has given me a chance to catch up on some blog!

Outside my house in Winchester 9am, 2/12/2010
Its been quite some time since my last post after our moving day at the end of October. I have settled in to the new unit, I have a portacabin inside the unit which provides a warm haven for me to write software which predominantly what I have been doing for the last month! Hence very few blogs, as I find talking about software a little dull, far less interesting than actually building the machine, although without it the machine is nothing.

The unit is working our pretty well, I have the test leg rigged to the Mantis power pack via two 5 meter 3/4" hydraulic lines, this means I have been able to give the engine/power pack a good test while tweaking software on the test leg. I have a long stop lead rigged to the engine, so I go out into the unit, start the engine then run back to the warmth of my porta-cabin from where I carry out my tests. There was a large extractor fan already in one of the windows of our new unit, which turned out to be operational. This has been very useful for extracting the diesel fumes! 

I have a nice remote engine and hydraulic control unit interface running across the HexEngine TCP link so I can keep an eye on RPM, Volts, Current, Hydraulic pressure, Flow etc.. I can also shut down the engine remotely so I don't need to use the E-Stop. The remote shutdown first drops the hydraulic pressure to 0, then sends a shutdown message over the CANbus warning all the sub-systems a shutdown is imminent, currently after  3 seconds the engine stops. This is the same automatic shutdown sequence that occours if there is an engine error or hydraulic problem.

I've added a high gain antenna and weather poof WiFi access point system (UBIQUITI Bullet 2) to the Mantis, currently this forms the link from my control station in the porta-cabin to the HexEngine, however, eventually the control station will be on-board, so the WiFi link will be used for remote monitoring/control. The bullet 2 has performed fairly well so far, although it does take about 20 seconds to boot, and on a couple of quick power cycles has failed to boot altogether. The Bullet 2 takes its power over the Ethernet wires, POE, I added POE to the Ethernet plug on the hexEngine, unfortunately I forgot  this fact and plugged the HexEngine back into my Belkin wireless router, which now no longer works and has that acrid burnt component smell! I must remember to remove this feature from the HexEngine before I do more damage, I will inject power to the Bullet via a junction box. It will be interesting to see what kind of range could be acheived in open field with the bullet, although i will require another bullet or similar high gain system at the monitoring/control station to get any real benefit.

Sun Cetop3 bodies with cartridges installed.
All of the Sun Hydraulics calves arrived this week, so I spent one afternoon inserting the 60 cartridges into the manifolds, at least thats one tedious job out of the way, and ready for when the Bosch valves arrive to be added to the main cetop manifold. Bosh valves should arrive about 9th December. Hopefully this cold snap will have moved on by then so I can get out into the main workshop and fit the valves, the workshop is currently sitting at a consistent 2 Celsius.

Grayhill 6.5" Display

I have made a decision with regards to which operator interface to use for the mantis, I have had my eye on one of these Grayhill displays since early this year. I made contact with Grayhill some time ago to see if they could offer some kind of in-kind sponsorship, and to find out about the supported OS. I have to say they weren't too helpful, plus the Linux OS is not yet supported, so for now CE is the only supported system. I then recently got in touch with Howard Bristow from EAO who are the UK distributor for Grayhill, he very kindly brought a display to the office so that I could see it inaction. Its very nicely built, and looks like it could take the rugged environment which was encouraging. Its a bit slow to boot, again around 20 seconds, but this may be able to be improved, or when the Linux version is released maybe switch.. any way, EAO have loaned me a display so that I can try it out for a while before I buy. The only thing is that this display is the non-touch screen version which I will definitely need, so I will just use a mouse for now. 

Grayhill CANbus Display

Grayhill also do a nice LCD CANbus display with a few buttons, perfect for the ECU which I have already built, but much more rugged than the display I am using which has already failed once due to a dry solder joint on the base board. I may swap to the Grayhill solution some time in the future.