The Excavator Design Validation tool verifies excavator designs by automatically generating control systems and modeling their performance in an accurate simulation of their expected environment. Part of this software design includes interfacing with human operations that can be included in simulation-based studies and validation. This is essential for assessing productivity, versatility, and reliability.

This software combines automatic control system generation from CAD (computer-aided design) models, rapid validation of complex mechanism designs, and detailed models of the environment including soil, dust, temperature, remote supervision, and communication latency to create a system of high value. Unique algorithms have been created for controlling and simulating complex robotic mechanisms automatically from just a CAD description. These algorithms are implemented as a commercial cross-platform C++ software toolkit that is configurable using the Extensible Markup Language (XML).

The algorithms work with virtually any mobile robotic mechanisms using module descriptions that adhere to the XML standard. In addition, high-fidelity, real-time physics-based simulation algorithms have also been developed that include models of internal forces and the forces produced when a mechanism interacts with the outside world. This capability is combined with an innovative organization for simulation algorithms, new regolith simulation methods, and a unique control and study architecture to make powerful tools with the potential to transform the way NASA verifies and compares excavator designs.

Energid’s Actin software has been leveraged for this design validation. The architecture includes parametric and Monte Carlo studies tailored for validation of excavator designs and their control by remote human operators. It also includes the ability to interface with third-party software and human-input devices. Two types of simulation models have been adapted: high-fidelity discrete element models

and fast analytical models. By using the first to establish parameters for the second, a system has been created that can be executed in real time, or faster than real time, on a desktop PC. This allows Monte Carlo simulations to be performed on a computer platform available to all researchers, and it allows human interaction to be included in a real-time simulation process. Metrics on excavator performance are established that work with the simulation architecture. Both static and dynamic metrics are included.

This work was done by Chalongrath Pholsiri, James English, Charles Seberino, and Yi-Je Lim of Energid Technologies for Glenn Research Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Software category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18522-1.

Software Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2010 issue of Software Tech Briefs Magazine.

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