The Peer review has evaluated this group as Excellent
The approach followed by the “Mechatronics and Robotics” (M&R) group in all its research activities is to consider the mechatronic system as a whole, i.e. the dynamics of a mechanical system cannot be fully assessed without taking into account its sensors, actuators and control logic. In fact, the dynamics of most mechanical systems is intrinsically nonlinear and deeply influenced by the force fields (such as the aerodynamic, the contact and the control forces) acting on it. In this perspective, the main research focus deals with an integrated design approach in the fields of vehicle dynamics (both car and railway), robotics, bioengineering and, recently, MEMS. One major research topics of the M&R group concerns the development of advanced control systems for vehicle safety and performances performed in collaboration with other research groups of the Mechanical Engineering Department (Railway Dynamics and Road vehicle Dynamics Research groups). As an example, the groups have designed and developed an active yaw damper for the improvement of vehicle stability and curving performances in cooperation with AlstomTransport. This mechatronic system has been considered from the concept to the development phase, including the testing on an ETR480-Pendolino vehicle ([M&R-RP1]), and has been industrialised and commercialised by the T.I.Ve.T. spin-off company of Politecnico di Milano. Among the other research activities that are currently carried out in the railway field, there is the development of an active steering system for tramcar vehicles that is intended to reduce wheel and rail wear, carried out in cooperation with AnsaldoBreda, and the development of an actively controlled pantograph that aims at reducing the wear of the line, and is expected to be used for diagnostic purposes in order to improve maintenance strategies ([M&R-RP2]). In the automotive field, the research activities are mainly focused on active/semiactive suspension systems, “intelligent” tyres, anti roll-over systems for heavy vehicles, 4WS and 4WD systems. One of the main results of this research work is the design and development, up to the homologation phase, of a semi-active differential for high performance sport cars that is currently mounted on Ferrari430 19 ([M&R-RP3]). Another important result consists in the design and development of a bimodal vehicle that is currently used for development and optimisation of control strategies for emissions reduction. In the area of robotics, the research focus is to design, develop and control autonomous systems for planetary and/or environmental exploration. The research framework is based on multi-robot/colony solutions aiming at exploiting complex tasks in cooperative-coordinated modality ([M&R-RP4]). From a design point of view, the main effort is paid to the development of efficient non-standard locomotion strategies, combining wheeled and legged robots, to the implementation of solutions for payloads transport and sensory capabilities, and to the related development of a number of communication technologies/protocols. Regarding biomechanics, the research focus is to develop mechatronic systems, such as artificial legs/arms and physiotherapy facilities, aiming to aid disabled/injured/elder people to acquire/re-acquire their motory capabilities. In order to reduce the time necessary for end-users to get used to these prostheses/physiotherapy facilities, low weight and high torque actuation systems together with innovative adaptive control logics are used. In the last five years, together with STMicroelectronics, the M&R group has started to work on MEMS. The main target is to develop an integrated mechanical– electronic–control software that is able to predict the MEMS behaviour during the design phase. This tool is presently under validation and the initial results are very encouraging: the tool has been used to design and develop innovative sensors (MEMS translational gyroscope) and MOEMS (bi-axial MEMS mirror) with relevant results ([M&R-RP5]). The objective of M&R group researches is to develop not only modelling tools but also experimental tools and test benches that allow us to precisely measure performances and robustness of specific components, such as electric drives, active and semi-active dampers, etc., and of complete systems. For what concerns electrical drives ([M&R-RP6]), the research addresses several topics: development of robust controls to avoid dynamic interaction problems between mechanical and electrical drive components; development of solutions for field communication problems and of strategies for the electrical power flow control in order to optimize the efficiency of power sources (e.g., Li-ion batteries, fuel cells); design and control of high power and high dynamics power converters. These activities have lead to the creation of a University spin-off company (MCM EnergyLab). The developed methodologies, modelling tools and test benches have allowed us to address and solve problems in several domains ranging form the vibration control of civil structures to the motion control of mechanical systems.