This challenge seeks innovations that will improve robot interactions with either humans or changing environments.
Sponsoring Department: National Research Council (NRC)
Funding Mechanism: Contract
Opening date: November 23, 2018
Closing date: January 14, 2019, 14:00 Eastern Standard Time
Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell
NRC does applied research and development in the field of human-machine interaction applied to human-robot collaborative tasks in manufacturing as well as to autonomous mobile systems. In this context, the application of the proper force by a robot is problematic. A robot interacting with objects or a human part of its environment through physical contact must apply appropriate forces and torques and must also adapt them to conditions that change with time, in a safe and stable manner. For example, a robot breaking an egg must adjust its behaviour so as not to damage the egg inside. Similarly, a robot applying a force on a human arm must be able to maintain this force while accommodating any unplanned movement. This challenge is at the core of considerable research in robotics and constitutes the state-of-the-art, whether for industrial applications or human-machine interaction.
While control algorithms exist to address this issue, their implementation onto a physical system requires that the mechanical portion of the system (joints and links) be as free from unwanted effects as possible. These effects can severely limit the performance and safety of the system as they introduce undesirable elements, thereby introducing additional considerations and complexity at the design and implementation stages. This challenge therefore seeks a system allowing a robot to apply adequate forces and torques when interacting with a human or an environment with changing conditions.
Desired outcomes and Considerations
The following elements constitute an overview of the challenge solution's desired characteristics.
Proposed solutions must:
- Allow an articulated mechanical structure having at least 3 degrees of freedom to apply a contact and a torque on a surface, to adapt this contact according to changes in surface conditions, and to execute movements while maintaining the specified contact.
- Minimize effects attributed to elasticity (< 1mm deflections at the effector, > 20Hz vibrations), friction, backlash and other unwanted play in the components, through an innovative design. Minimization of these effects must come from the system's mechanics. In the case where the solution involves feedback control, performance must be demonstrated using commercially available components (Essential).
- Be available in a compact form so as to easily actuate a robotic rotational joint. As a general guideline a length/width/depth ratio of «1» would be appropriate. For example, a first design could have dimensions of 10cmX10cmX10cm.
- Allow for its integration with external controllers, whether experimental or commercial, by providing a standard interface (e.g. through an electronic servo drive).
Proposed solutions should:
- Be easily scalable, thus allowing force or torque generation over various ranges according to the application at hand. 3 levels of nominal output torques are suggested, namely:
- Be robust to abrupt changes in force/torque, e.g. resulting from impacts at a non-negligible speed (> 0.1 m/s) or from emergency stops.
Background and Context
Part of the NRC Aerospace Research Centre, the Automation and Robotics Group of the Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre performs applied research and development in the field of human-machine interaction applied to human-robot collaborative tasks in manufacturing as well as to autonomous mobile systems. In both these domains, it is desirable to perform force control which includes feedback to the operator as well as controlling system dynamics for stability/performance (e.g. by minimizing vibrations) and in order to provide additional feedback from the environment (e.g. proximity to obstacles using force fields).
While several approaches are currently being investigated, their implementation in a physical setup is to a great extent limited by the performance of the actuators involved. In order to provide the necessary torque profiles in a compact and light form factor suitable for use in collaborative robots or robots with a high payload/weight ratio, harmonic drives are typically used and are considered state-of-the industry in this respect. However, the trade-off in generating high torque ratios in a compact format results in elastic, vibrations and friction effects that compromises overall system and introducing additional dynamics that are notoriously difficult to address at the control stage. Furthermore, applications involving contact with the environment (including humans) and repeated safety stops have been reported to be detrimental to harmonic drives, negatively impacting their performance and damaging them in the long run. While good results can be obtained when the system is in free motion, performing tasks while in contact with the environment has to be achieved in a well-known environment, under performance-limiting conditions such as low-speed. A solution combining high-torque ratio in a compact format without the trade-off effects mentioned above would allow a broader performance envelope, increasing the system's range of forces that can be applied and rendered back to the user thus making the system more versatile and adaptable.
Maximum value and travel
Maximum contract value:
Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.
The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $150,000.00 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable, for up to 6 months.
The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $700,000.00 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable, for up to 2 years. Only eligible businesses that have completed Phase 1 could be considered for Phase 2.
This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding.
For Phase 1 it is anticipated that two meetings will require the successful bidder(s) to travel to the location identified below:
Kick-off meeting: Montreal, Quebec
Final Review Meeting: Montreal, Quebec
All other communication should occur via phone or videoconference.
Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:
- for profit
- incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
- 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
- research and development activities that take place in Canada
- 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
- 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
- 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *
Part 1: Mandatory and Minimum Pass Mark Criteria
Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria (Questions 1a and 2) and achieve the minimum pass mark for Question 3 in order to be deemed responsive and proceed to Part 2.
1 a. Scope
Describe your proposed solution and how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed and clearly identify how your solution meets all of the EssentialOutcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice.
Mandatory - Pass/Fail
2. Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
Mandatory - Pass/Fail
Pass: The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 4 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 4 (inclusive) including:
Describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions.
Point Rated with Minimum Pass Mark
The minimum pass mark for this criteria is 4 points.
0 points/Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR
The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.
Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria
Proposals that do not achieve the overall minimum score of at least 55 points out of a possible 110 points (50%) will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.
The overall minimum score is determined by adding the Applicant/Bidder's scores from the following questions together (1b, 3, 4-13).
Describe how your proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice.
If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Bidders/Applicants will receive 10 points
4. Phase 1 Science and Technology Risks
Identify potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1?
5. Benefits to Canada
Describe the benefits that could result from the successful development of your solution. Applicants/Bidders should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories:
6. Phase 1 Project Plan
Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.
Note: Phase 1 cannot exceed 6 months and TRL 4.
7. Phase 1 Project Risks
Identify potential project risks (eg. Human resources, financial, project management, etc) to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated?
8. Phase 1 Implementation Team
Demonstrate how your project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.
Include the labour rates and level of effort for each member. A day is defined as 7.5 hours of work, exclusive of meal breaks. The labour rates and level of effort will be reviewed as part of the evaluation for Question 10.
If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution.
10. Phase 1 Financial Proposal
Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.
11. Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight
Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1.
12. Phase 2 Strategy
Describe a realistic strategy for the prototype development if selected to participate in Phase 2.
Responses should include:
13. Commercialization Approach
Describe your overall commercialization approach for the proposed solution.
Responses should include:
Questions and answers
Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.
All incoming questions regarding a specific challenge will be posted here with the corresponding response.
If you have a question about a challenge, please send it to ISED-ISDE@canada.ca.
You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.
A glossary is also available.