The MSRAL has facilities located in two buildings across the Purdue University campus. The main MSRAL facility is located in room 1164 on the first floor of the Gatewood Wing of the Mechanical Engineering building inside the Ruth and Joel Spira Laboratory for Electromechanical Systems. The second MSRAL facility is located on the first floor of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories.
MSRAL@Spira is the central location for the groups microrobotics related research. It contains a 12’ x 12’, class 10,000 cleanroom. The clean room houses three actively vibration controlled optical tables for the multi-scale manipulation test-bed and various mobile microrobotics test-beds. Another area of the clean room is used for clean storage of samples and other dust-sensitive devices and components. The design and analysis portion of MSRAL-Spira consists of desks and meeting space as well as computers equipped with requisite software packages, such as COMSOL, SolidWorks, Matlab, LabView, and ANSYS.
The Multi-Scale Manipulation Test-bed is a flexible microrobotics test-bed well-suited for microrobotic manipulation, automation, and assembly tasks at the nano-, micro-, and meso-scales. The test-bed consists of an inverted optical microscope (Nikon Ti-U), automated XY stage with encoders (Nikon Ti-S-ER), CCD cameras (QImaging Retigna 200R, Point Grey Flea2), and four computer-controlled manipulators (Sutter Instruments MPC-285) with 3 controllable degrees-of-freedom with a minimum step size of 62.5 nm. The manipulators can be controlled individually or as a team to perform a variety of tasks. Simple probe-type end-effectors are typically used with the manipulators as well as custom-built articulated probes. In-house control programs have been developed to allow for autonomous vision-guided control of the entire manipulation system.
A few different Mobile Microrobotics test-beds are available for use in the lab. The latest one includes two orthogonal magnetic wire coil pairs along with a bottom and top coil to provide external magnetic fields. The coils surround a testing platform where the microrobot(s) resides. Computer controlled custom drive electronics modulate the coils’ operating current and voltage signals provided from a two multi-channel high current (35V, 10A, 175W) power supplies (72-6854, TENMA). The robots are actuated and controlled with the magnetic field generated by the coils. Solid iron cores can be inserted into each coil to provide increased magnetic field strength in the workspace of the robot. The robot’s performance is observed through an overhead firewire CCD camera (Flea2, Point Grey Research), a 0.7X to 3X focus lens (VZM 300i, Edmund Optics), and light source. The camera and lens are mounted on a rack and pinion focusing mount (NT54-793, Edmund Optics) that is attached to a vertical shaft on manually controlled precision XY stage (HL.500-XY, SDI Inc.). The camera is connected to a control computer to capture real-time images of the robot and provide control signals for autonomous operation.
MSRAL@Herrick is the focal point for the mobile robotics research of the lab. MSRAL members use the unique multi-user Perception Based Engineering (PBE) lab facility for aerial and ground robot testing. This lab is a 43’ x 28’ x 20’ semi-anechoic space, equipped with a state-of-the-art motion capture system consisting of twelve Vicon T160 cameras and retractable netting. The system is set up for the simultaneous motion tracking and control of both multiple UAV and ground robots. The room is also vibration isolated. Additionally, the lighting, temperature (55F-85F), humidity (20% to 80%) and sound can be finely controlled, thus simulating various types of environments. Two Kistler force plates along with a ramp system are also available for use with the Vicon motion capture system in the PBE Lab. This allows for biomechanics studies to be performed in a variety of environments.
Additionally, the High-Bay Flexible Laboratory is an open 36’ x 87’ high-bay area on the first floor of Herrick Labs. Aerial and ground robot manufacturing, assembly, controller tuning, repairs, and RC testing is performed in this space. A MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer is also in the High-Bay Lab for additive manufacturing of robotic components and devices. Similar computational resources are available in the MSRAL@Herrick offices as the ones in MSRAL@Spira for mobile robot design and analysis.