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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON AUTOMATION SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Design of Parallel Manipulators

Yunjiang Lou, Senior Member, IEEE, Yongsheng Zhang, Ruining Huang, Xin Chen, and Zexiang Li, Fellow, IEEE

AbstractOptimal design is an inevitable step for parallel manipulators. The formulated optimal design problems are generally

constrained, nonlinear, multimodal, and even without closed-form

analytical expressions. Numerical optimization algorithms are

thus applied to solve the problems. However, the optimization algorithms are usually chosen ad arbitrium. This paper aims to provide

a guideline to choose algorithms for optimal design problems.

Typical algorithms, the sequential quadratic programming (SQP)

with multiple initial points, the controlled random search (CRS),

the genetic algorithm (GA), the differential evolution (DE), and

the particle swarm optimization (PSO), are investigated in detail

for their convergence performances by using two canonical design

examples, the Delta robot and the GoughStewart platform. It is

shown that SQP with multiple initial points can be efficient for

simple design problems, while DE and PSO perform effectively

and steadily for all design problems. CRS can be used to generate

good initial points since it exhibits excellent convergence evolution

in the starting period.

Note to PractitionersNumerical optimization algorithms are

generally inevitable in solving optimal design problems of parallel

manipulators. Various algorithms have been applied in literature

and in engineering. This paper provides a thorough comparison on

convergence performance of typical optimization algorithms, SQP

with multiple initial points, CRS, GA, DE, and PSO. Two parallel

manipulators, the Delta robot and the GoughStewart platform,

are used as design examples by maximizing the effective regular

workspace. Computation shows that DE and PSO are good choices

for complicated optimal design problems, while SQP with multiple

initial points is superior for simple problems. CRS performs excellently in the starting period. It can be used to generate good initial

points.

Index TermsControlled random search (CRS), differential

evolution (DE), genetic algorithm (GA), optimal design, optimization algorithms, parallel manipulators, particle swarm

optimization (PSO), sequential quadratic programming (SQP).

Manuscript received December 17, 2012; accepted April 14, 2013. This paper

was recommended for publication by Associate Editor T. D. Murphey and Editor K. Lynch upon evaluation of the reviewers comments. This work was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant

51075085 and Grant U1134004 and in part by the Introduction of Innovative

R&D Team Program of Guangdong Province under Grant 2009010051.

Y. Lou, Y. Zhang, and R. Huang are with the School of Mechantronics Engineering and Automation, Harbin Institute of Technology Shenzhen Graduate

School, and the Shenzhen Key Lab for Advanced Motion Control and Modern

Automation Equipments, Shenzhen 518055, China (e-mail: louyj@hitsz.edu.

cn).

X. Chen is with the School of Mechatronics Engineering, Guang Dong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, China (e-mail: chenx@gdut.edu.

cn).

Z. Li is with the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Hong

Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China, and is also

with the DG-HUST Manufacturing Engineering Institute, Dongguan 523808,

China (e-mail: eezxli@ust.hk).

Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available online

at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TASE.2013.2259817

I. INTRODUCTION

connecting to a base and a moving platform, which

form one or multiple closed chains. The unique structure

distinguishes themselves from serial manipulators and leads to

features of lower inertia, lower moving mass and thus potential

of high speed and high acceleration. They have been successfully applied in various applications. However, the distinct

structural characteristic of parallel manipulators makes their

kinematics highly nonlinear, which are even more complicated

than those of serial ones. (i) For a higher degree-of-freedom

(DoF) parallel manipulator, the determination of workspace

is usually not an easy job. (ii) The mathematic dependence

of kinetostatic performances like manipulability, stiffness,

velocity/force transmission, and accuracy on geometric parameters is generally implicit and complicated. The performances

distribute non-uniformly in the workspace and may vary drastically from one configuration to another. The optimal design, a

process to find the best suitable design parameters with respect

to certain performance indices, becomes an inevitable step

when designing a parallel manipulator. A parallel manipulator

with optimal kinematic parameters may possess dramatically

better performance compared with one without an optimal

design process.

Since 1980s, there have been numerous studies on the kinematically optimal design of parallel manipulators. Various performance indices were proposed to characterize properties of a

parallel manipulator and were then used to formulate optimal

design problems. From the viewpoint of workspace, the performance indices can be fundamentally divided into two categories, (i) indices on workspace geometric properties, i.e., shape

and volume; and (ii) indices on workspace quality (or kinetostatic performances of a parallel manipulator), e.g., dexterity

[1], manipulability [2], singularity [3][5], force/velocity transmission factor [6], [7], static stiffness [8], accuracy [9], [10].

Accordingly, the numerous kinematically optimal design problems of parallel manipulators were formulated as optimization

problems by taking one index or a mixed index as the objective,

while some other indices as design constraints.

It is indicated that the various proposed optimal design problems are usually constrained, nonlinear, multimodal optimization problems without closed-form expressions [11], [12][15].

It is generally impossible to find an analytical solution. Numerical algorithms are preferable to solve the problems. Traditional gradient-based techniques are local optimization algorithms. They may have difficulty to locate the global optimum

of an optimal design problem. For a simple parallel manipulator

with few design parameters, exhaustive search may be effective

[16], [17]. For a complicated parallel manipulator, however, it is

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2

optimal design problem. In order to amend the localness of gradient-based algorithms, some researchers proposed to apply the

algorithms with multiple initial guesses [12], [18] although the

method provides no guarantee on locating the global optimum.

Probability-based direct search algorithms, which are global optimization algorithms, have been widely used to solve optimal

design problems, e.g., the controlled random search (CRS) [15],

the genetic algorithm (GA) [19][23], the differential evolution

(DE) [24], [25], and the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm [26][29]. However, there is no guideline on how to

choose an optimization algorithm suitable for individual design

problems. The optimization algorithms were usually chosen ad

arbitrium. The paper aims to provide a thorough comparison

of optimization algorithms in solving optimal design of parallel manipulators so that designers can choose an efficient algorithm accordingly for their problems. Typical algorithms like

SQP with multiple initial points, CRS, GA, DE, and PSO, are

investigated. The Delta robot, a 3-DoF purely translational parallel manipulator, and the GoughStewart platform, a 6-DoF

full-mobility parallel manipulator, are taken as design examples

to conduct the comparison.

This paper is organized as follows. In Section II, a typical

optimal design problem formulation, maximization of the effective regular workspace, is briefly introduced. In Section III, typical optimization techniques, SQP with multiple initial guesses,

CRS, GA, DE, and PSO are introduced. The optimal designs of

the Delta robot and the GougnStewart platform are carried out

and compared in Sections IV and V, respectively. Finally, conclusions are drawn in Section VI.

Hereafter,

denotes the set of design parameters of interest, where is the number of design parameters. The velocity

relation can in general be written as

(3)

where

ping joint rate

Let

be a regular-shaped workspace for a general parallel manipulator, where

is the translational

workspace and

the orientational workspace. A

measure for

can be derived based on measures for

and

. Let

and

be measures for the volume of

and

,

respectively, a measure on the overall volume of

is given as

(4)

where ,

, 2 are constants weighting contributions of

and

, respectively. They are assigned according to different

practical requirements. In this paper, we consider the case where

a constant orientation capability is prescribed, i.e.,

is constant. The objective function is then reduced to

. The objective is to maximize the translational regular workspace given

that at each point in the translational regular workspace the manipulator at least possesses an orientational capability of

.

In order to remove dimension effect, the design parameters

are normalized as follows:

(5)

In order to carry out comparison of various optimization algorithms, a typical design problem formulation is needed. In this

paper, the design problem formulation of maximizing the effective regular workspace is used. This formulation maximizes the

workspace volume with a regular shape (e.g., rectangle, ball,

cube, and cylinder), which possesses good performance in manipulability. Link interference and joint limits are considered

and taken as design constraints. A brief description of the formulation is provided as follows. Detailed derivation can be found

in [15].

Let us consider a normally actuated parallel manipulator,

where the number of actuators is equal to the number of DoFs

of the manipulator. For an -DoF normally actuated parallel

manipulators, let

and

, respectively, be sets

of actuated and passive joint variables, and the total number

of DoFs of all the subchains, and

the Cartesian

coordinate representing the position and orientation of the

end-effector. Given an , inverse kinematics maps can be

derived as follows:

(1)

(2)

where is the set of kinematic parameters, e.g., the link lengths,

the position of base points of each subchain, the relative arrangement of each axis, and the size and shape of the end-effector, etc.

are individual kinematic parameters, and

that

.

By considering both the actuated and the passive joint limits,

the inverse kinematics are used to check the workspace containment. A set

is reachable means every

is reachable.

In other words, the inverse kinematic solution corresponding to

the point exists and is within the joint limits

(6)

(7)

where

and

are, respectively, the lower and upper

bound for the th actuator due to actuator limits. Similarly,

and

are, respectively, the lower and upper bound for the

th passive joint due to passive joint limits.

That a point is reachable also requires that there is no mechanical interference at the configuration. Assume that a manipulator is composed of links. For simplicity, each link is approximated by the minimal cylinder enveloping the link. Let the

radius of the cylinder be

and denote by

the line segment

passing the th cylinder axis,

. Clearly, there is no

mechanical interference if the distance between any pair of line

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LOU et al.: OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS FOR KINEMATICALLY OPTIMAL DESIGN OF PARALLEL MANIPULATORS

D. Problem Formulation

Combining constraints (4)(10), the optimal design problem

for maximization of effective regular workspace is formulated

as following.

1) Problem 1: Optimal Mechanism Design: Find a set of

optimal design parameters such that

(11)

Fig. 1. The distance between two links.

(12)

(13)

(14)

segments is larger than the sum of corresponding radii. Fig. 1 depicts the distance between two spatial cylinder-modeled links.

The following inequalities ensure that no link interference will

occur at a point :

(15)

(16)

(17)

(8)

,

, and links and are not neighfor all

boring, which means there is no joint connecting link and link

. Here,

is the function computing distance between two line segments

and . Note

.

The set of points satisfying (6)(8) constitute the workspace

reachable by the resultant parallel manipulator. Therefore, any

point

should satisfy (6)(8).

C. The Manipulability Constraints

In order to guarantee the regular workspace to be effective,

i.e., the manipulator is able to conduct tasks effectively within

the regular workspace, constraints on the manipulability index

are introduced to characterize quality of the regular workspace.

A frequently used measure for manipulability is the inverse condition number of the kinematic Jacobian matrix, which is defined as

where

denotes the inverse condition number function of

matrices, and

and

its minimal and maximal

singular value functions, respectively. Thus,

. Here,

we treat separately orientation and position manipulability by

rewriting the differential kinematics (3) as

where and are linear velocity and angular velocity, respectively. Thus,

and

, respectively, give measures for

position and orientation manipulability. To guarantee position

and orientation manipulability, they are applied in design by imposing the following constraints:

(9)

(10)

and

are, respectively, lower bounds for position

where

and orientation manipulability, which are constants assigned according to practical design requirements.

;

;

,

and link and link are not neighboring.

Clearly, the optimal design problem 1 is a constrained nonlinear optimization problem. The objective function (11), the

manipulability constraints (12) and (13), and the link interference constraint (16) usually have no explicitly analytical expressions with respect to the set of design parameters . Gradients

and Hessians are thus not readily computed. Furthermore, the

objective function in the optimal design problem is generally

multimodal, i.e., there may exist multiple local maxima in the

feasible region. Gradient-based algorithms may be trapped into

a local maximum and thus have difficulty in locating the global

optimum.

where

In this section, typical optimization algorithms used in

solving the optimal design problem, gradient-based algorithm

with multiple initial points, CRS, GA, DE, and PSO are briefly

introduced.

A. The Gradient Based Algorithms

Widely-used gradient-based algorithms are interior point

method, sequential quadratic programming (SQP), active set

method, and trust region reflective method. SQP represents the

state of the art in nonlinear programming methods and plays an

important role in the optimal design of parallel manipulators.

In this algorithm, at each major iteration, an approximation

is made for the Hessian of the Lagrangian function using a

quasi-Newton updating method. This is then used to generate

a quadratic programming (QP) subproblem whose solution is

used to form a search direction for a line search procedure.

A feasible initial point is needed in this algorithm. The SQP

implementation consists of three main stages, updating the Hessian matrix, quadratic programming solution, and line search

and merit function. SQP method is most efficient if the number

of active constraints is nearly as large as the number of variables, that is, if the number of free variables is relatively small.

It requires few evaluations of the functions, in comparison with

augmented Lagrangian methods, and can be more robust on

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4

active set methods [30]. Hence, SQP method is chosen as the

representative of gradient-based algorithms to be studied in

Sections IV and V. In order to locate the global optimum,

multiple initial points are provided by uniformly discretizing

the feasible zone. By comparing the optima generated by the

multiple SQP problems, the best one is taken as the global

optimum.

B. The Controlled Random Search

The CRS algorithm is a global optimization technique featuring robustness and flexibility. In 1978, Goulcher and Long

[31] proposed the method to solve constrained nonlinear optimization problems. Later this method was improved and applied

in many chemical plants [32] and parallel manipulators [15].

The basic philosophy of the method is to select new points by

random selection from normal probability distributions centered

at the best previous value

(18)

,

The (18) describes how the new points in th iteration,

are generated in the neighborhood of the previous best point

, where is a vector of random variables

that are

subject to normal probability distribution with zero mean and

unity standard deviation as follows:

is applied to adaptively modify the standard deviation of the normal probability distribution for every

random variable in each iteration. It is actually the standard

deviation for the vector of random variables

. Therefore,

control comes by adjustment of the standard deviation of the

distribution, which explains the name of the method. Compared

with standard optimization techniques, the random variable

can be regarded as a search direction, while the standard

deviation serves as a kind of step-length, which is adjusted

automatically during the search in two situations.

(a) Each time a successful trial has been made. In this case,

standard deviations are set according to

,

, where

is a positive quantity describing the

distance between the variables current value

and the

nearest bound of the variable.

is a compression

factor to reduce search interval and maintain searches in

the neighborhood of the best previous point.

(b) After a specified number, typically 100, of consecutive

failure. Failure means that no improvement is made with

respect to the objective function. When this occurs, for

instance, as the optimum is approached, the standard deviations are reduced by

where

is a positive number.

The GA was proposed and developed by Holland and successfully applied by his student, Goldberg, in the 1970s and

It is a global optimization technique, which does not require

derivative information. So far, it has been widely used in function optimization, combinatorial optimization, automatic control, robotics, image processing, and so on. The computation

procedure of the simple GA is as follows [33], [34].

1) Initialization. An initial population formed by individuals

is randomly generated within the feasible set defined by the

constraints.

2) Individual fitness evaluation. All individuals are evaluated

by a fitness function, the objective function.

3) Selection. Based on the fitness of the individual, individuals are selected to survive or reproduce in the next generation according to some given criterion.

4) Crossover. Using the mechanism of biological crossover,

a child is produced by choosing two or more parents to

recombine their chromosomes.

5) Mutation. Using the mechanism of biological mutation,

one or more gene values are altered in a chromosome from

its initial state by a small probability.

6) Termination. One or more criteria are used to terminate

the search. Typical criteria include a solution found that

satisfies minimum criteria, fixed number of generations

reached, and computation time reached.

D. The Differential Evolution (DE)

DE was originally introduced by Storn and Price [35] and

offers a way of optimizing a problem without using its gradient.

Suppose a dimensional problem with its population size being

NP, DE can then be described as follows [35], [36].

1) Initialization.

vectors with random positions are generated in the dimensional feasible search-space.

2) Mutation. In generation , a mutant vector is generated for

each target vector

,

by

(19)

where

are randomly chosen

integers and mutually different with

.

is an amplification factor of the differential

variation

.

3) Crossover. The trial vector

is formed by

if

otherwise

, where

is a random number

generator uniformly distributed in

,

the crossover constant determined by the user,

a randomly chosen index,

which ensures that

gets at least one parameter from

.

4) Selection. The trial vector

is compared to the target

vector

according to the objective function evaluation. Taking the minimization problems as examples, if the

vector

produces a smaller objective function value

than

, then

is set to

; otherwise, the old

value

is retained.

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LOU et al.: OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS FOR KINEMATICALLY OPTIMAL DESIGN OF PARALLEL MANIPULATORS

5) Termination. Similar to GA, common terminating conditions include a sufficiently good fitness or a maximum

number of iterations (generations).

In the real computation, the code by Buehren was used [37].

E. The Particle Swarm Optimization (pso)

PSO is originally proposed in [38] and was first intended for

simulating social behavior. PSO does not use the gradient of the

problem being optimized either. It was modified and improved

by researchers, e.g., [39]. Let the position and velocity of th

particle be, respectively, and , and

and be, respectively, the best fitness value the th particle has achieved so far

and corresponding location. Assume that the best fitness value

achieved by any particle of the population is called

and

the corresponding location is denoted as . The fundamental

process for implementing of PSO is described as follows [40],

[41].

1) Initialization. A population array of particles with positions

and velocities are randomly generated on dimensions in

the search space.

2) Evaluation. Each particle is evaluated by the fitness function (the objective function) in variables.

3) Comparison and selection. The particles fitness value is

compared with particles

. If current value is better

than

, then set

value equal to the current value,

and the

location equal to the current location in

-dimensional space. Then, the particles fitness value is

compared with the populations overall previous best. If

current value is better than

, then reset

to the

current particles array index and value.

4) Adjustment. The velocity and position of the particle is

changed by the following equation:

(20)

5) Loop to step 2) until a criterion is met, usually a sufficiently

good fitness or a maximum number of iterations.

In the (20),

, where

is specified by

users.

and

are two acceleration constants weighting of

the random acceleration terms and the functions

and

are two random number generators uniformly distributed in

. They are randomly generated at each iteration

and for each particle.

In the real computation, the code by Sam was used [42].

F. Termination Criterion and Discussions

In the early years, gradient-based algorithms were the main

approach to solve optimal design problems of parallel manipulators. Since the algorithms could only find local minima, global

optimization algorithms were gradually introduced to deal with

the multimodal problems.

SQP is a deterministic and local optimization technique,

while DE, PSO, GA, and CRS are all probabilistic and global

optimization algorithms. It is necessary to use a suitable criterion to evaluate them. In order to better estimate an algorithms

ability to locate the true global optimum, a trial can be classified

as a success when the best objective function value reaches

a predetermined limit known as the value-to-reach, or VTR

maximum time,

, are treated as failures. Once the

algorithm reaches the VTR within

, the computation will

terminate and output the optimization results. With the VTR

and

as criteria for success, we can estimate the speed and

the probability with which the algorithm locates the basin of

attraction to which the global optimum belongs.

IV. CASE STUDY: THE DELTA ROBOT

The Delta robot, as shown in Fig. 2, is a 3-DoF purely translational parallel manipulator consisting of 3 identical

subchains, where represents a revolute joint and

a planar

parallelogram. This architecture was invented by Clavel [43]

and is well-known for its high speed. Up to now, it has been

widely used in many applications.

A. Optimal Design Problem Formulation

The kinematic parameters of the manipulator are depicted in

Fig. 3, where denotes the length of arms

, the length

of the parallelogram, and

,

,

, 2,

3, with and being centers of the base and the moving platform, respectively. The detailed inverse kinematics and Jacobian matrix can be found in [15] and [43], which are omitted for

brevity. Let

, the set of design parameters is obtained,

, according to its kinematics. The manipulator size

is normalized by normalization of each subchain,

.

Since the Delta robot is in a rotational symmetry, a cubic

shape is chosen for the regular workspace . Denoting by

the side length of the cubic workspace, we take the objective

to represent the workspace volume.

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6

and the manufacturing constraints are implicitly included by

imposing the following constraints on the actuated and passive

joints as in [43].

1)

due to constructional constraints on the

parallelograms articulations.

2)

is imposed in order to avoid interference between the arms and the parallelogram rods when

the angle is acute and to avoid ambiguities in computation.

3)

is chosen for actuation.

If for some applications the lower bound of manipulability is

given as 0.4, by combining all other requirements together, the

optimal design problem is formulated as follows.

1) Problem 2: Optimal Design of the Delta Robot: Find a set

of optimal design parameters such that

where

Algorithmic Settings

The algorithms, DE, GA, PSO, CRS and SQP, were applied

to solve the optimization problem. The probability-based algorithms, DE, GA, PSO, and CRS, were tested five times. For all

algorithms, VTR was given 0.3701, which is a close estimate of

the global optimum 0.3702. The maximum allowable time

was set 3600 s, i.e., 1 h. For CRS, DE, GA, and PSO, the initial

feasible points were randomly generated in the feasible region.

The population sizes used in DE, GA, and PSO were identically

set 20, 10 times the number of optimization variables. Since algorithmic parameters play important roles in the convergence

performance, they were set according to the algorithm properties and the problem features as follows.

DE.

and

. Default values were used for

other algorithmic parameters.

GA. In the realization, the elite count was set 2, the

crossover fraction was set 0.8, the migration fraction was

set 0.2, and the interval was taken 20.

PSO. The acceleration constants

and

,

and

.

CRS. The compression factors

and

.

SQP. Since SQP is intrinsically a local optimization technique, a sufficiently large number of initial points should be

provided to locate the global optimum. For a constrained

nonlinear optimization problem, it is usually difficult, even

impossible, to determine which initial point will lead to the

global optimum by simple observation. Here, a uniform

discretization of the feasible region was used to generate

the set of initial points. Each discretized point was applied

as an initial point in the algorithm. The generation of initial points starts from a coarse discretization of the feasible

using the coarse initial points, a finer discretization will be

applied. The process terminates until it reaches the VTR.

B. Computation and Discussion

The above algorithms were coded in the environment of

MatLab (R2010b). The computation was implemented

using a personal computer with an Intel Core2 Duo CPU

@2.8 GHz and a RAM of 2 GB.

The computation results are listed in Table I.

DE. The number of generations and the computation time

range from 12 to 35 and from 138.2 to 416.1 s, respectively.

The corresponding average values are, respectively, 24 and

284.3.

PSO. The number of generations ranges from 17 to 61. The

computation time ranges from 184.4 to 655.5 s. The average number of generations and the average computation

time are 38.6 and 405.3 s, respectively.

GA. The number of generations ranges from 1 to 94. The

computation time ranges from 24.86 to 2093 s. The average

number of generations and the average computation time

are 45.8 and 1017 s, respectively.

CRS. In the five trials, CRS succeeded four times to reach

the VTR. In the four successes, the number of iterations

ranges from 26 to 35 and the computation time ranges from

793.4 seconds to 1851 s. The average number of iterations

is 31 and the average computation time is 1279 s.

SQP. There are two independent optimization variables,

and , in the problem. In the optimization, a 3 3 discretization (i.e., 9 initial points) reached the VTR. The corresponding computation time is 3.931 s.

From Table I, the following observations can be obtained.

1) Clearly, all algorithms except CRS succeeded in reaching

VTR for five trials. Therefore, the algorithms, DE, GA,

PSO, and SQP with multiple initial points, perform more

steadily than CRS.

2) In this example, SQP yielded the least computation time,

3.931 s, which is much less than the average time used in

the probability-based algorithms. This is because the Delta

robot is a simple mechanism (3-DoF) and the number of

independent design variables is rather small (only 2, and

).

3) For the global optimization algorithms, DE produced the

least average number of generations, 24. It also possessed

the least average computation time. It is worthy noting

that GA reached the VTR with only one generation and

24.86 s in one of trials, which is very superior to other trials

and other global optimization algorithms. However, it performed in an inconsistent manner. GA also produced the

largest number of generations, 94, and the longest computation time, 2093 s in all trials. Therefore, the simple GA

is inconsistent in computation time for different trials.

4) For DE, PSO, and GA, the computation time increases

monotonically along with the increase of the number of

generations. While for CRS, it is not the case.

In the Delta robot example, the computational performances can

be ranked,

, where

means better than and means much better than.

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LOU et al.: OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS FOR KINEMATICALLY OPTIMAL DESIGN OF PARALLEL MANIPULATORS

TABLE I

COMPUTATION RESULTS OF OPTIMAL DESIGN OF THE DELTA ROBOT

Fig. 4. Computation evolution of DE, CRS, GA, and PSO: the Delta robot case.

TABLE II

COMPUTATION RESULTS WITH TERMINATION TIME 400 S

perhaps the earliest and the most intensively studied 6-DoF parallel mechanism, which has been widely used in motion simulation, 5 axis machining, force/torque sensing, etc. In this paper,

we suppose the manipulator has identical legs. The base ball

joints are arranged in a pairwise rotational symmetric manner.

The joints on the moving platform are also pairwise rotationally symmetric.

A. Optimal Design Problem Formulation

the four probability-based algorithms were tested with an identical initial points,

. The common

termination time of 400 s was used to stop the computations.

Fig. 4 presents the typical computation evolution of algorithms

and Table II shows the optimal objectives and the corresponding

design parameters. From Fig. 4, the rank of convergence speed

is

in the starting period (from 0 to

80 s), where means approximate. In the later computation, the convergence became rather slow for all four algorithms.

They performed almost equally and finally they all reached a

close neighborhood of the true optimum, see Table II.

V. CASE STUDY: THE GOUGHSTEWART PLATFORM

A GoughStewart platform, as shown in Fig. 5, is composed

of a fixed base, a moving platform, and six identical

legs,

where represents a passive spherical joint and is an actuated

prismatic joint. The moving platform is controlled by driving the

five parameters, namely:

: the radius of the circle on the base where the joint

lie;

: the radius of the circle on the moving platform where

the joint

lie;

: half the angle between two far joints on the base;

: half the angle between two far S joints on the moving

platform;

: the leg length when the manipulator is at its home position, where all actuators are at their half stroke.

Since only a few set of possible strokes are available for

commercial linear actuators, we may choose it beforehand

and modify other design parameters to adapt it. We therefore

normalize the stroke by unity. The set of design parameters is

. A constraint on the manipulator size is

imposed as

This article has been accepted for inclusion in a future issue of this journal. Content is final as presented, with the exception of pagination.

8

manipulator with respect to the stroke. In the simulation,

.

The effective regular workspace of the GoughStewart platform is composed of two portions, the translational one

and

the orientational one

. Let us consider the GoughStewart

platform for machine tool applications requiring good tilting capability which is usually characterized by the tilting angle .

A cube with side length

in

is designated as the translational workspace

. The objective function is chosen as

, which is constrained by the tilting capability

with

in the simulation.

The translation and orientation manipulability constraints are

imposed with

and

.

As discussed above, the strokes are normalized by unity, i.e.,

the leg lengths is constrained by

Assume the spherical joints are identical and the range is

, the constraints due to passive ball joint limits are

given as follows:

where

and

are the base ball joint axes at the current configuration and at the home position, respectively. The vectors

and

are the moving platform ball joint axes, respectively, at

the current configuration and at the home position. The functions

and

compute pivot angles of base ball joint and moving platform ball joint on the th

leg, respectively. We take

in the simulation.

Constraints due to leg interference are given as

where

represents the line segment of the th leg. Here, it is

assumed that the radius of the minimal cylinder enveloping a

leg is 0.02.

Combining the objective and constraints together, the optimal

design problem of a GoughStewart platform is formulated as

follows.

1) Problem 3: Optimal Design of the GoughStewart Platform: Find a set of optimal design parameters such that

(21)

(22)

(23)

(24)

(25)

(26)

(27)

and

(22)(27) are nonlinear without explicitly analytical expressions with respect to the design parameters .

B. Computation and Discussion

Similar to the Delta robot case, VTR and

are used

as performance criteria for the algorithms,

and

seconds (24 hours). For CRS, DE, GA, and

PSO, the initial feasible points were randomly generated within

the feasible region. The population sizes used in DE, GA,

and PSO were identically set 40, 10 times of the number of

independent optimization variables. The algorithmic parameter

settings are identical to those in the Delta robot example. Using

the same testing hardware and software in the Delta robot case,

we obtained computation results, shown in Table III.

DE. The number of generations and the computation time

range from 6 to 12 and from 7058.9 to 22578 s, respectively. The corresponding average values are, respectively,

8.8 and 13562.

PSO. The number of generations ranges from 4 to 23. The

computation time ranges from 7477 to 22387 s. The average number of generations and the average computation

time are 12 and 12572 s, respectively.

GA. The number of generations ranges from 9 to 20. The

computation time ranges from 21522 to 58267 s. The average number of generations and the average computation

time are 13.4 and 37107 s, respectively.

CRS. In the five trials, CRS succeeded three times to reach

the VTR. In the three successes, the number of iterations

ranges from 6 to 11 and the computation time ranges from

1209 seconds to 25808 s. The average number of iterations

is nine and the average computation time is 14033 s.

SQP. There are four independent optimization variables

in the problem. In the optimization, a 4 4 4 4 discretization (i.e., 256 initial points) reached the VTR. The

corresponding computation time is 323280 s.

From Table III, the following observations are obtained.

1) The algorithms DE, PSO and GA succeeded in reaching

VTR for all five trials. CRS succeeded three times out of

five trials. SQP with multiple initial points actually failed to

reach VTR within

since its computation time exceeds

. This example also suggests that DE, PSO, and GA

perform more steadily than CRS.

2) In this example, SQP yielded the longest computation time,

323280 s. It is several ten times of the computation times

used in the probability-based algorithms. This arises because the GoughStewart platform is a 6-DoF complex

mechanism and the computation of kinematics becomes

rather complicated. Further, the number of independent design variables increases to 4. It shows that SQP is not good

at handling such a complicated problem.

3) For the global optimization algorithms, DE presented the

least average number of generations, 8.8, while PSO possessed the least average computation time, 12572 s. But the

computation times of DE and PSO are almost in the same

order of magnitude.

4) Although GA succeeded in all five trials, its computation

times are much longer than those using DE or PSO. The

LOU et al.: OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS FOR KINEMATICALLY OPTIMAL DESIGN OF PARALLEL MANIPULATORS

TABLE III

COMPUTATION RESULTS OF OPTIMAL DESIGN OF THE GOUGH-STEWART PLATFORM

TABLE IV

COMPUTATION RESULTS WITH TERMINATION TIME 60000 S

Fig. 6. Computation evolution of DE, CRS, GA, and PSO: the GoughStewart

platform case.

maximal one by DE or PSO. It indicates that the search

efficiency of GA is much worse than that of DE and PSO.

5) It is interesting to note that the minimal time by CRS is

1209 s, which is almost one order of magnitude less than

those by other algorithms. However, its computation time

performance exhibits great inconsistency among different

trials since the other two successful trials possess more

than ten times longer computation times.

According to the analysis above, the computational performances can be roughly ranked,

.

As done in the Delta robot case, the four probability-based

algorithms were tested for convergence evolution performance

given the identical termination time, 60,000 s. An identical

initial points,

, was

used. Typical computation evolution of algorithms was presented in Fig. 6. The optimal objectives and the corresponding

design parameters are shown in Table IV. In the starting period

(010,000 s), CRS converged the fastest. It can be roughly

ranked,

. In the intermediate

period (10,00040,000 s), DE and PSO surpassed CRS one by

one. The objective in GA was improved gradually, however,

GA still performed the worst among the algorithms. In the

final period (40,00060,000 s), the convergence of CRS, PSO,

and DE became slow since they reached a small neighborhood of the true optimum. GA still ranked the last although

it got good improvement. Finally, the convergence rank is

.

It is also worthy noting that CRS converges very fast in the

starting period while it improves rather slow in the later periods.

Comparing the computation performances of the algorithms

in the two examples, it indicates that (1) for a simple design

problem (a simple mechanism and/or simple kinematics), SQP

with multiple initial points can be efficient. (2) For a complicated design problem, however, SQP becomes very inefficient.

DE and PSO are the best choices to solve such optimization

problems. CRS exhibits good convergence evolution performance in the starting period. It can be used to generate good

initial points for other algorithms.

VI. CONCLUSION

In this paper, the convergence performances of five typical

algorithms, CRS, GA, PSO, DE, and SQP with multiple initial

points, are evaluated by optimal design of two parallel manipulators, the Delta robot and the GoughStewart platform.

Conclusions are obtained based on the problem complexity.

(1) For a simple design problem (a simple mechanism and/or

simple kinematics), SQP with multiple initial points performs

best. (2) While for complicated design problems, SQP performs

the worst and DE and PSO are the best choices. Taking into

account the efficient convergence of CRS in the starting period,

we may combine it with other algorithm, e.g., DE or PSO. CRS

is used to generate good initial points while the other algorithm

is applied to continue later search.

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M.E. degrees in automation from the University of

Science and Technology of China, Hefei, in 1997 and

2000, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical

and electronic engineering from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay,

Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, in 2006.

He is now with the School of Mechatronics Engineering and Automation, Harbin Institute of Technology Shenzhen Graduate School, and the Shenzhen

Key Lab for Advanced Motion Control and Modern

Automation Equipments, Shenzhen, China. His research interests include analysis and optimal design of parallel manipulators, integrated design of mechatronic systems, and motion control.

mechanical engineering from the Central South

University, Changsha, China, in 2009 and the M.E.

degree from the School of Mechatronics Engineering

and Automation, Shenzhen Graduate School, Harbin

Institute of Technology, China in 2012.

He is now with Luoyang Institute of Electro-Optical Equipment, AVIC, Luoyang, China. His

research interests include optimization algorithms,

optimal design of parallel manipulators, and path

planning of robotics.

LOU et al.: OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS FOR KINEMATICALLY OPTIMAL DESIGN OF PARALLEL MANIPULATORS

mechanical engineering and the M.E. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical manufacturing and automation

from the Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin,

China, in 2000, 2002, and 2006, respectively.

He is now with the School of Mechatronics Engineering and Automation, Harbin Institute of Technology Shenzhen Graduate School, and the Shenzhen

Key Lab for Advanced Motion Control and Modern

Automation Equipments, Shenzhen, China. His research interests include analysis and optimal design

of parallel manipulators, and micro EDM technology.

Xin Chen received the B.S. degree in manufacturing engineering from Changsha Railway Collage,

Changsha, China, in 1982, the M.Sc. degree in

manufacturing engineering from the Harbin Institute

of Technology, Harbin, China, in 1988, and the

Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from the

Huazhong University of Science and Technology,

Wuhan, China, in 1995.

He is a Professor with the School of Electromechanical Engineering, Guangdong University

of Technology, Guangzhou, China. His research

interests include manufacturing industrial informationlizing and collaborative

design, mechanical design theory and method, and microelectronic packaging

technology and equipment.

11

degree (Hon) in electrical engineering and economics

from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, in

1983, and the M.A. degree in mathematics and the

Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering and computer

science from the University of California, Berkeley,

CA, USA, in 1985 and 1989, respectively.

He is a Professor with the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Hong Kong

University of Science and Technology, Clear Water

Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong. His research interests

include robotics, nonlinear system theory, and manufacturing.

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