Spatial operators have been used to analyze the dynamics of robotic multibody systems and to develop novel computational dynamics algorithms. Mass matrix factorization, inversion, diagonalization, and linearization are among several new insights obtained using such operators. While initially developed for serial rigid body manipulators, the spatial operators — and the related mathematical analysis — have been shown to extend very broadly including to tree and closed topology systems, to systems with flexible joints, links, etc. This work uses concepts from graph theory to explore the mathematical foundations of spatial operators. The goal is to study and characterize the properties of the spatial operators at an abstract level so that they can be applied to a broader range of dynamics problems.
The rich mathematical properties of the kinematics and dynamics of robotic multibody systems has been an area of strong research interest for several decades. These properties are important to understand the inherent physical behavior of systems, for stability and control analysis, for the development of computational algorithms, and for model development of faithful models.
Recurring patterns in spatial operators leads one to ask the more abstract question about the properties and characteristics of spatial operators that make them so broadly applicable. The idea is to step back from the specific application systems, and understand more deeply the generic requirements and properties of spatial operators, so that the insights and techniques are readily available across different kinematics and dynamics problems.
In this work, techniques from graph theory were used to explore the abstract basis for the spatial operators. The close relationship between the mathematical properties of adjacency matrices for graphs and those of spatial operators and their kernels were established. The connections hold across very basic requirements on the system topology, the nature of the component bodies, the indexing schemes, etc. The relationship of the underlying structure is intimately connected with efficient, recursive computational algorithms. The results provide the foundational groundwork for a much broader look at the key problems in kinematics and dynamics.
The properties of general graphs and trees of nodes and edge were examined, as well as the properties of adjacency matrices that are used to describe graph connectivity. The nilpotency property of such matrices for directed trees was reviewed, and the adjacency matrices were generalized to the notion of block weighted adjacency matrices that support block matrix elements. This leads us to the development of the notion of Spatial Kernel Operator SKO kernels. These kernels provide the basis for the development of SKO resolvent operators.
This work was done by Abhinandan Jain of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact