Calibration of Ultra-high-precision Robots Operating in an Unsteady Environment

In recent years nanotechnology has become an enabling technology for the development and fabrication of new innovative products. The growth of micro- and nano-manufacturing lies in the ability of converting micro- and nano-fabrication techniques into mass-production industrial processes, where small-scale products can be economically manufactured in a short period of time. When dealing with nano-scale objects and industrial processes it is necessary to take into account the physics acting at this level of precision. Phenomena such as friction, heat transfer, and adhesion forces have far more dramatic effects on the deformation of the robot geometry at the nano-scale than at macro- and micro-scales, thus affecting the industrial process that the robot will perform. The development of micro- and nano-fabrication techniques thus requires a thorough understanding of the physics behind nanorobotics. Specifically, to enable sub-micrometer accuracy for ultra-high-precision robots it is necessary to acquire a complete knowledge of how all sources of inaccuracy deform the robots at nano-scale. Furthermore, a way to compensate for such effects to maintain an acceptable level of accuracy has to be found. In this thesis we fulfill these needs by proposing a new calibration procedure specifically designed for industrial nano-systems working in a thermally unstable environment, a method to evaluate and compensate for external forces acting on ultra-high-precision robots and a method to relate the calibration of several robots working together. This is done by measuring how each source of inaccuracy deforms the robot, modeling this effect and compensating it in real-time. To allow this modus operandi, we propose a new calibration procedure summarized in the following six steps: Step 0 A judicious design of the robot that takes into account the calibration problem and the pose measurement, Step 1 Study of the sources of inaccuracy linked to the robot and the industrial process that it will perform, Step 2 Measurement of several end-effector poses, Step 3 Identification of a function that describes the robot geometry and its behavior when subjected to the sources of inaccuracy identified in Step 1, Step 4 Implementation of the model found in Step 3 into the robot controller, Step 5 Validation and potential return to Step 1 or Step 0. The effectiveness of this calibration procedure is proven by testing it on three case studies, examined in order of complexity: A 1 DOF (degree(s)-of-freedom) ultra-high-precision linear axis was calibrated while thermal effects were deforming it. The 3 DOF ultra-high-precision parallel robot Agietron Micro-Nano was calibrated while thermal effects and an external force were acting on it. An ultra-high-precision 2-robot system was calibrated while thermal effects were acting on it. Thus, an exhaustive study on relating the references of the two robots was carried out. For each case we developed an appropriate ultra-high-precision measuring system used to acquire the pose of the robot end-effector. We measured the end-effector position throughout the workspace while the sources of inaccuracy were acting on the robot to map how they affect the robot geometry. We used the Stepwise Regression algorithm to identify a mathematical model able to describe the geometric features of the robot while all the sources of inaccuracy are acting on it. The model is then implemented in the robot controller and a validation of the calibration accuracy is performed. For every ultra-high-precision robot considered in this work we reached an absolute accuracy of ±100 nm. We finished the coverage of this thesis by analyzing the nano-indentation process as a calibration confirmation tool and as an industrial process. Furthermore, we describe how to use a multiple ultra-high-precision concurrent system of robots. This work was financed by the FNS (Swiss National Foundation for research).

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