Model-based Kinematics Generation for Modular Mechatronic Toolkits

Mirko Bordignon, Ulrik P. Schultz and Kasper Stoy

Abstract: Modular robots are mechatronic devices that enable the construction of highly versatile and flexible robotic systems that can dynamically modify their assembled mechanical structure. The key feature that enables this dynamic modification is the capability of the individual modules to connect to each other in multiple ways and thus generate a number of different mechanical systems, in contrast with the monolithic, fixed structure of conventional robots. The mechatronic flexibility, however, complicates the development of models and programming abstractions for modular robots, since manually describing and enumerating the full set of possible interconnections is tedious and error-prone for real-world robots.

In order to allow for a general formulation of spatial abstractions for modular robots and to ensure correct and streamlined generation of code dependent on mechanical properties, we have developed the Mechatronics Description Language (MDL). MDL is a domain-specific language, which can model the kinematic structure of individual robot modules and declaratively describe their possible interconnections, rather than requiring the user to enumerate them in their entirety. From this description, the MDL compiler generates the code that is needed to simulate the resulting robots within Webots, a widely used commercial robot simulator, and the software component needed for spatial structure computations by a virtual machine-based runtime system, which we have developed and use for programming physical modular robots.