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Software-only prototyping - feasible?

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newInRobotics:
What do You consider functional? What are the problems You foresee and want to check in simulation? Do You have preliminary design of a system in question to start Your simulation on? Which part of mechanical system do You want to simulate, is it damper response time, is it motor heat dissipation, is it traction with surface, is it chassis flex, etc.? I'll repeat myself - there is no software that would give You "perfect" overall design from nothing. You have to create something first, then test it, then refine it, test it again, refine it again, etc., etc.

mviljamaa:

--- Quote from: newInRobotics on June 26, 2013, 08:29:34 AM ---What do You consider functional? What are the problems You foresee and want to check in simulation? Do You have preliminary design of a system in question to start Your simulation on? Which part of mechanical system do You want to simulate, is it damper response time, is it motor heat dissipation, is it traction with surface, is it chassis flex, etc.? I'll repeat myself - there is no software that would give You "perfect" overall design from nothing. You have to create something first, then test it, then refine it, test it again, refine it again, etc., etc.

--- End quote ---

I have nothing designed currently, but I'll be studying existing designs as soon as I have some kind of a prototyping platform (i.e. a mechanics/physics simulator) to test out ideas.

My first task for the robot would be about the structure, dimensions and method of movement (e.g. what type of wheeling, how many wheels and what kind of suspension) to assess a simple structure that can function (move, does not get stuck and can move in a relatively balanced manner) in a rough terrain. After this it would be about further parts optimization, the power source, control, materials and all the other jazz.

Thus what I'm looking for is a software toolset in which I can do assessments about how different structural designs differ and how they can be improved or optimized for my particular needs. Conceptually I'm looking for information resources that would provide guidelines as to what you need to import to the simulations in order to get the kind of simulations that correspond closely to the real environment that the physical robot will be dealing with.

newInRobotics:

--- Quote from: mviljamaa on June 26, 2013, 08:45:54 AM ---I have nothing designed currently, but I'll be studying existing designs as soon as I have some kind of a prototyping platform (i.e. a mechanics/physics simulator) to test out ideas.

My first task for the robot would be about the structure, dimensions and method of movement (e.g. what type of wheeling, how many wheels and what kind of suspension) to assess a simple structure that can function (move, does not get stuck and can move in a relatively balanced manner) in a rough terrain.
--- End quote ---
If I were You, I'd start with modeling robot using Inventor (free for students) and using its kinematics simulator to visualize how suspension moves. Also, Inventor offers stress simulation for You to see if part is going to flex under load and how much.

As for environment/physics simulator - the one that I know is Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. I've never used it and don't really know how difficult or easy it is to use, or how realistic simulations are.

mviljamaa:

--- Quote from: newInRobotics on June 27, 2013, 12:38:29 AM ---If I were You, I'd start with modeling robot using Inventor (free for students) and using its kinematics simulator to visualize how suspension moves. Also, Inventor offers stress simulation for You to see if part is going to flex under load and how much.

As for environment/physics simulator - the one that I know is Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. I've never used it and don't really know how difficult or easy it is to use, or how realistic simulations are.

--- End quote ---


Thank you for the suggestions. I've considered adopting V-Rep for the simulation work as it seems quite inclusive, requiring only a separate CAD package e.g. FreeCAD for more effective (the built-in part editor is a bit minimalistic) parts design. For FEM analysis etc. there seem to be loads of free/open source programs e.g. Elmer.

If anyone else comes to this thread there would be a few questions that would still be interesting for discussion:

-What methodology, tools and information resources exist for virtually simulating robotics in close to their designated environments (e.g. in my case the rough terrain)?

jwatte:
I build my own solution using game engines. I like the ODE simulation engine because I've used it for 15 years, but there are others (Bullet Physics, Havok, PhysX, etc.)
You can also use a complete game engine -- anything from Unreal Developer Kit to Unity 3D can probably do certain kinds of simulation for you.

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