Date of Award

Fall 1999

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering - (Ph.D.)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Zhiming Ji

Second Advisor

M. C. Leu

Third Advisor

E. S. Geskin

Fourth Advisor

Denis L. Blackmore

Fifth Advisor

R. S. Sodhi


Hexapod machine tools have the potential to achieve increased accuracy, speed, acceleration and rigidity over conventional machines, and are regarded by many researchers as the machine tools of the next generation. However, their small and complex workspace often limits the range of tasks they can perform, and their parallel structure raises many new issues preventing the direct use of conventional tool path planning methods. This dissertation presents an investigation of new reconfiguration and tool path planning methods for enhancing the ability of hexapods to adapt to workspace changes and assisting them in being integrated into the current manufacturing environments.

A reconfiguration method which includes the consideration of foot-placement space (FPS) determination and placement parameter identification has been developed. Based on the desired workspace of a hexapod and the motion range of its leg modules, the FPS of a hexapod machine is defined and a construction method of the FPS is presented. An implementation algorithm for the construction method is developed. The equations for identifying the position and orientation of the base joints for the hexapod at a new location are formulated. For the position identification problem, an algorithm based on Dialytic Elimination is derived. Through examples, it is shown that the FPS determination method can provide feasible locations for the feet of the legs to realize the required workspace. It is also shown that these identification equations can be solved through a numerical approach or through Dialytic Elimination using symbolic manipulation.

Three dissimilarities between hexapods and five-axis machines are identified and studied to enhance the basic understanding of tool path planning for hexapods. The first significant difference is the existence of an extra degree of freedom (γ angle). The second dissimilarity is that a hexapod has a widely varying inverse Jacobian over the workspace. This leads to the result that a hexapod usually has a nonlinear path when following a straight-line segment over two sampled poses. These factors indicate that the traditional path planning methods should not be used for hexapods without modification.

A kinematics-based tool path planning method for hexapod machine tools is proposed to guide the part placement and the determination of γ angle. The algorithms to search for the feasible part locations and γ sets are presented. Three local planning methods for the γ angle are described. It is demonstrated that the method is feasible and is effective in enhancing the performance of the hexapod machine. As the nonlinear error is computationally expensive to evaluate in real time, the measurement of total leg length error is proposed. This measure is proved to be effective in controlling the nonlinear error.