High-stiffness Control of Series Elastic Actuators using a Noise Reduction Disturbance Observer
Rendering a high impedance on a series-elastic actuator (SEA) can improve motion control performance while retaining collision safety by a lower physical stiffness. The safe impedance range can be increased with high gain velocity feedback control, but in practice this is limited by noise. This paper applies the noise reduction disturbance observer (NRDOB) to inner-loop velocity control of an SEA, attenuating noise and allowing higher safe rendered stiffness compared with standard torque and torque/velocity hierarchical control. Closed-form expressions for maximum passive stiffness and Z-region are found, shown to depend strongly on the high-frequency noise gain, and used to optimize the control gains. Performance is experimentally verified on a reaction-force SEA; validating the passivity of the high stiffness control in impact (free space and stiff environment) while rendering a safe stiffness 3.0 times the intrinsic stiffness.