Prototyping Robotic Systems: Methodology and Case Studies

Prototyping Robotic Systems: Methodology and Case Studies

Andrew Goldenberg (Engineering Services Inc., Canada & University of Toronto, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3886-0.ch036
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This chapter provides an experience-based framework of prototypes development and commissioning. It introduces elements learned directly from the practice that encompass aspects of project management, technology development process, and commercialization in the context of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The contents of this chapter are based mainly on the author’s practical experience of leading an SME technology developer. The author is also a faculty member working as a researcher and teacher. Because of the interrelationship between research and technology development, his views and perception of the topic may be unique, and they are personal. The chapter presents a general framework for robotic systems prototyping. To back up the points made in the chapter, three case studies of robotic prototyping are included to help the reader perceive the outlined concepts.
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There is no general agreement on what constitutes a “prototype” and the word is often used interchangeably with the word “model,” which may cause confusion. In general, “prototypes” can be of four basic types:

  • Proof-of-Principle Prototype: In electro-mechanics it is sometimes called a breadboard. This type of prototype is used to test specific features of the intended design without attempting to emulate the visual appearance, required materials, or assembly process. Such prototypes are used to identify which design features may not work, and where further in-depth development and testing is necessary.

  • Functional Prototype: This type of prototype allows designers to explore the basic size, look and functionality of a new product. It can help assess ergonomic factors, and provides insight into industrial design of the product. These prototypes capture the intended design aesthetic and emulate the appearance of the intended product. These prototypes are intended for marketing, and are generally durable enough to be shown and use by representative users and consumers. The prototypes are suitable for use in critical design reviews and photo shoots for sales literature.

  • Commercial Prototype: This prototype provides the final design, aesthetics, materials and functionality of the intended product. The construction of this fully working full-scale prototype is the ultimate test of the original concept and the engineers' final check for design flaws to allow further improvements to be made before larger production runs begin.

  • Production Prototype: The difference between the commercial and production prototypes is expressed by three elements:

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      Material: Production materials may require specific manufacturing processes involving higher capital costs than what was used for prototyping;

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      Manufacturing: Often expensive and time consuming unique tooling may be required to fabricate some custom designed parts; and

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      Fidelity: Final production design often requires extensive effort for design for manufacturing that was avoided in the earlier prototypes.

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