Research and Development
Meka is an active partner with the research robotics community. We not only provide the engineering expertise to transfer technologies from the lab to the market, but we also work with research institutions to develop new technologies that advance the field. Our core expertise spans compliant robotics, force controlled actuators, manipulator design, real-time software, and highly integrated mechatronic systems.
Series Elastic Actuators
The Series Elastic Actuator (SEA) is a compliant actuator with excellent force control characteristics. Meka employs SEAs at all joints of its A2 manipulator and H2 hand. These actuators incorporate an elastic (spring) element between the gear train and the load. The deflection of the spring under load is measured and used as a force-feedback signal for control. The SEA has a number of advantages, including
- Improved human safety as the spring decouples the motor inertia from the link during impact
- Low output impedance
- Improved shock tolerance and geartrain protection
- Intrinsic compliance to accommodate for position uncertainty
- Simplified force sensing and improved force control stability
M3 Real Time Control Software
All Meka robots utilize our high performance M3 realtime control system. M3 is designed to maximize the on-time of the robot and to minimize development cycle time, freeing you up to focus on what really matters. M3 utilizes an EtherCAT control bus, giving you fine-grained, low-latency, time-synchronized access to sensor data and motor controllers.
M3 hardware peripherals are plug-and-play, allowing a new gripper, sensor, or arm to be easily integrated into your robot. With M3, robot behaviors can be scripted using the Python API. For users that want to develop their own custom realtime controllers, M3 supports a C++ plug-in architecture on the RTOS. All of our robots come equipped with force, joint space, and cartesian space controllers.
EtherCAT Control Bus
All Meka systems utilize the EtherCAT real-time control bus. EtherCAT is an open high-performance Fieldbus with excellent low-latency and low-jitter characteristics. The Meka EtherCAT implementation utilizes the EtherLab Master combined with RTAI to achieve flexible, plug-and-play real-time control architecture capable of updating 50 slave devices at 1Khz.
We support the Willow Garage Robot Operating System (ROS), including RVIZ kinematic visualization, URDF descriptions, posture control of all joints, and common sensor interfaces. We are currently working to bring additional ROS features for manipulation, navigation, and calibration to all Meka systems.
Open Source Software
Meka is committed to open software. We understand that researchers expect low-level access to their hardware. Our entire M3 software system, including DSP firmware, is LGPL licensed and available for download.