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Dhaouadi, R.


Torque Control in Harmonic Drives with Nonlinear Dynamic

Friction Compensation
Rached Dhaouadi
Department of Electrical Engineering, School of Engineering
American University of Sharjah
P.O. Box 26666, Sharjah, UAE
E-mail: rdhaouadi@ausharjah.edu
[Received December 27, 2003; accepted July 13, 2004]

This paper proposes a nonlinear observer-based controller designed to compensate for friction in harmonic
drives with hysteresis. Hysteresis in a harmonic drive
is described by a nonlinear differential equation representing the combination of nonlinear stiffness and
nonlinear friction. Nonmeasurable friction is derived
using a nonlinear observer to provide asymptotic stability and position tracking. The performance of the
proposed system is confirmed by computer simulation.

Keywords: nonlinear observer, nonlinear friction compensation, harmonic drive, hysteresis

1. Introduction
The design of high-performance motion control requires accurate knowledge of electromechanical dynamics, including linear and nonlinear transmission attributes
of the system. Friction is inevitable in mechanical systems and found undesirable by control system designers because it is often responsible for deteriorating performance and restricting closed-loop bandwidth. Combining friction and gear compliance makes it difficult to
achieve high-precision speed, position, and torque control
in pointing and tracking servomechanisms.
Friction modeling and compensation have been treated
from many different points of view, including static and
dynamic friction models with feedback and feed-forward
compensation [13], most of which rely on a single-mass
model, i.e., a model in which the actuator and load are
rigidly coupled and friction depends only on the relative
velocity of the contacting objects. These models may not
be sufficiently accurate for systems in which relative velocity is almost always extremely small, such as in multimass systems with nonlinear friction coupled to the stiffness of the link and sandwiched between the motor and
load. A two-mass model is thus required. Schafer U. and
Branderburg considered the system model for such a case
[4]. Friedland and Mentzelopoulou [5, 6] contributed an
adaptive method based on a nonlinear reduced-order observer for calculating Coulomb friction assumed to lin388

early combine sign functions of relative velocities of contacting masses. Only the friction estimation is reported
and was not used for complete control system design.
We studied basic issues in modeling and analysis of
compliance and nonlinear friction effects in two-mass
model servomechanisms applied to harmonic drives. We
propose a methodology to estimate nonlinear friction, and
design a stable observer-based controller for torque/speed
control with optimum tracking.
Mathematical models for a two-mass system have been
formulated for a harmonic drive based on an effective
model of nonlinear friction and hysteresis of the harmonic
drive gear [79]. Nonlinear model properties were analyzed for different load-to-motor inertia ratio r ml , and different types of reference input. When torque is plotted
against angular displacement, the curves obtained show
hysteresis for large rml . For sinusoidal input and a very
high payload, the system response shows large hysteresis and results in poor position tracking. For a step input,
a highly under-damped response is obtained mainly due
to the flexibility of the harmonic gear. Steady-state angular displacement is not zero due to combined nonlinear
flexibility and nonlinear friction. Results showed that the
response exhibits limit cycle oscillations in steady state,
which agrees with what has been observed in nonlinear
servosystems with integral control. It was also observed
that as inertia ratio increases, the limit cycle amplitude
increases and its frequency decreases.
We designed an exact model-based torque controller to
compensate for nonlinear friction and hysteresis. The proposed control law uses general feedback control and estimation of dynamic friction leading to nonlinear stabilization and compensation that ensure optimal tracking.

2. Two-Mass-Model System Dynamics

A mathematical model was developed [7, 9] for a harmonic drive based on the heredity concept in mechanical
systems. The modeling approach used experimental data
and led to a better understanding of hysteresis and its description by well-posed nonlinear differential equations.
The relationship between torsional torque h  and
corresponding angular displacement across the flexsJournal of Robotics and Mechatronics Vol.16 No.4, 2004

Torque Control in Harmonic Drives with Nonlinear Dynamic

Friction Compensation

hysteresis model development. The servomotor torque

controller is assumed to be very fast compared to mechanical dynamics and therefore the torque developed by the
motor equals the torque reference. the torque measured by
the torque sensor on the output shaft represents the torque
transmitted across the flexspline. The load-to-motor inertia ratio is defined as
rml  2 l  . . . . . . . . . . . . . (8)
N Jm

Fig. 1. Harmonic drive.

pline of the harmonic drive gear is defined by the following nonlinear equations:
h   f   z  . . . . . . . . . (1)

 0 . . . . . . . (2)

l . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3)
where m and l represent motor and load position and N
is the gear reduction ratio. f is the stiffness curve depending on the characteristics of the flexspline. and are
heredity function parameters.
This model very accurately represents the dynamic behavior of the harmonic drive gear, where torque across
the flexspline is subdivided into stiffness torque f  and
friction torque z  taking into account the entire torque
history up to time t (Fig.1).
The complete mechanical system with the harmonic
drive gear and load is described by the following differential equations:
f  z
Jm m  Bm m 

 m . . . . .
Jl l  Bl l  L f  z  0 . . . . .
z  z . . . . . . . . . . .


3. PID Position Control

For position control, the motor position is measured
and a conventional PID controller is used (Fig.2). The
motor torque reference re f is given by

re f


m   Kd re f
re f

m dt 

4.1. Control Law Design

To improve the performance of the position tracking
controller and cancel the effect of the nonlinear friction,
we use model-based control. Since internal friction is described by a dynamic state in the hysteresis model, a nonlinear observer is used to estimate friction and provide
To simplify the nonlinear observer development, we
rewrite the dynamic equations (4)-(6) in terms of the displacement angle as follows:
J  B  a  b f   z  u . . . . (9)


z . . . . . . . . . . . (10)

where J  N Jm , B  N Bm , a  N




u  N m  cl c  N 2 . The load torque l
is assumed to be zero in the analysis below.
The design used to construct a stable controller and observer is based on Lyapunov stability analysis [12]. The
nonlinear friction observer is given by
z  z  K e . . . . . . . . . (11)
1  N2

where z is the estimated friction and K0 is the observer

gain. Signal e is a correction term used to compensate for
modeling errors.
Friction observation error is defined as 
z  z z. Observation error dynamics are then obtained by taking the
time-derivative of 
z and substituting expressions (10) and
(11) to result in

z K e . . . . . . . . . . (12)

. . . . . .

4. Nonlinear Friction Estimation and Compensation


where Jm and Jl are inertia on the motor and load, and B m

and Bl are damping on the motor and load. h  f   z
represents torque transmitted across the flexspline. L is
load torque on output. All nonlinear friction and flexibility of the harmonic drive gear are represented by the
torque function h.

re f

Nonlinearity in the system degrades positioning accuracy

and tracking performance of such a control system and
leads to various continuous limit cycles [8]. The objective
is therefore to avoid or reduce these failures through linear
or nonlinear control.


Gain parameters K p , Kd , and Ki are chosen so that the

system accurately follows the reference waveform.
This control was also used for system identification and
Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics Vol.16 No.4, 2004

We assume that the motor and load positions are available

for measurement, so both and are known. We assume
also for analysis that stiffness function f  is linear
f   K  . . . . . . . . . . . . . (13)
Our first objective is to design a torque control loop using