by Tan Hui Juan Esther
Underwater manipulation systems make it possible to access and perform mechanical works in hostile and hazardous environments where humans cannot enter, such as the deep oceans, icy waters, natural disaster region or a man-made wreckage. They are highly sought after in industries ranging from the Oil and Gas Industry to Search and Recovery, Deep water Archaeology and Marine Science, where they are required to perform tasks such as welding, valve turning and connector plugging, retrieval of fragile corals or recovery of free-floating objects (Ridao, Carreras, Ribas, Sanz, & Oliver, n.d.).
These manipulation systems are typically installed on board an underwater vehicle, notably a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) where tasks are mainly performed under human supervision, or an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) where tasks are performed independently of human control. Today’s manipulator systems swings between the extremes of being either too heavy and expensive (Cooney, 2006), or too simple and lacking in functionalities. Also, the multi-purpose usage of manipulators in various facets demands for a robust and versatile gripping system.
Henceforth, this project will be on the research, design and fabrication of a manipulator, which serves a dual role of meeting the industry needs in manipulation systems and also for competitive use on the Bumblebee Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). In this thesis, the mechanical design and integration of a manipulator is presented, with versatile gripping achieved using a Jamming Gripper technique and precise positioning achieved via pneumatic actuations and high torque servo rotation.
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