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Optimization Algorithms for Kinematically Optimal


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

ARALLEL manipulators consist of multiple subchains


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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necessary to develop or find an efficient algorithm to solve the


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

is the kinematic Jacobian matrix, mapto Cartesian velocity .

A. The Objective Function


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)

II. OPTIMAL DESIGN PROBLEM FORMULATION


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.

where is a given constant, usually 1, and


are individual kinematic parameters, and
that
.

. The (5) implies

B. The Workspace Constraints


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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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.

, the regular-shaped workspace, and


;
;
,
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

III. TYPICAL OPTIMIZATION ALGORITHMS


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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badly scaled problems than the nonlinear interior-point and


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.

C. The Genetic Algorithm (GA)


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

1980s based on the principles of genetics and natural selection.


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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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

Fig. 2. Architecture of the rotational Delta robot.

Fig. 3. The th subchain of the rotational Delta robot.

[36]. Trials that do not reach the VTR within a predetermined


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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In this case study, mechanical interference constraints (16)


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

region. If the algorithm cannot locate the global optimum


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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TABLE I
COMPUTATION RESULTS OF OPTIMAL DESIGN OF THE DELTA ROBOT

Fig. 5. A schematic for the GoughStewart platform.

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

TABLE II
COMPUTATION RESULTS WITH TERMINATION TIME 400 S

-joints to extend/retract legs. The GoughStewart platform is


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

In order to compare the convergence evolution performance,


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

From Fig. 5, the geometry of the manipulator is defined by


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

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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON AUTOMATION SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

where is a given constant representing the relative size of the


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

The inequalities above reflect actuated prismatic joint limits.


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

By observation the objective (21) and the constraints


(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

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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.

minimal computation time by GA is nearly equal to the


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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10

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON AUTOMATION SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

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Yunjiang Lou (M06SM13) received the B.S. and


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.

Yongsheng Zhang received the B.S. degree in


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.

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

Ruining Huang (M12) received the B.S. degrees in


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

Zexiang Li (M89SM05F07) received the B.S.


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.