Stochastic strategies for a swarm robotic assembly system


We present a decentralized, scalable approach to assembling a group of heterogeneous parts into different products using a swarm of robots. While the assembly plans are predetermined, the exact sequence of assembly of parts and the allocation of subassembly tasks to robots are determined by the interactions between robots in a decentralized fashion in real time. Our approach is based on developing a continuous abstraction of the system derived from models of chemical reactions and formulating the strategy as a problem of selecting rates of assembly and disassembly. These rates are mapped onto probabilities that determine stochastic control policies for individual robots, which then produce the desired aggregate behavior. This top-down approach to determining robot controllers also allows us to optimize the rates at the abstract level to achieve fast convergence to the specified target numbers of products. Because the method incorporates programs for assembly and disassembly, changes in demand can lead to reconfiguration in a seamless fashion. We illustrate the methodology using a physics-based simulator with examples involving 15 robots and two types of final products.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2009