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Model–free control of a two-dimensional system based on uncertainty

reconstruction and attenuation

Conference Paper · October 2013

DOI: 10.1109/SysTol.2013.6693885



2 authors:

Rafał Madoński Przemysław Herman

Southeast University (China) Poznan University of Technology


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Model–free control of a two–dimensional system
based on uncertainty reconstruction and attenuation
Rafał Madoński∗ and Przemysław Herman∗

Abstract— This paper analyses the robustness of the Model– of following a classical robust control design (i.e. introducing
Free Control (MFC) technique. The experimental tests are a model-based controller which, after the design and tuning
conducted on a 2DOF laboratory manipulator. The multidi- process, tries to suppress the uncertainties acting on the
mensional, nonlinear, time-varying, cross-coupled, and mostly
unknown dynamics of the considered system makes an effective plant), proposes an intuitive on-line method of simultaneous
control of such plant a highly demanding task. Obtained estimation and rejection of the negative effects of both mod-
results are compared with the outcomes of a classical PID eling uncertainties and external disturbances in the system.
controller, widely used in industrial applications. The gathered As a result, the performance of the controller is not
experimental data makes the MFC a powerful fault-tolerant strictly dependent on the precision of the assumed model,
approach, that can eventually grow to a noticeable alternative
to the controllers used in engineering practice nowadays. which can be hard to obtain in practice (due to noises,
aging, nonlinearities, etc.), but on the quality of estimating
I. I NTRODUCTION the uncertain parts of the model. If the reconstruction and
The Model–Free Control (MFC) was first introduced by attenuation of the perturbation is continuously updated in
Fliess and Join in [2]. An overview paper, that summarizes real-time with reasonably high frequency, the MFC turns out
the past few years of its development, can be found in [3]. to be a simple, yet very effective control tool with both robust
The wording “model–free” may be however misleading to and adaptive features.
some readers, since they may associate this approach with These properties can find their potential importance espe-
techniques such as classical PID or bang-bang controllers, cially in rigorous control scenarios that require fault-tolerant
which do not use any information about the mathematical approach, since the perturbation that may occur during the
description of the plant in the control rule. The user should process operation can be treated as a part of the plant model-
thus understand the MFC as a technique that is free from a ing uncertainty, then reconstructed, and eventually mitigated
“precise” mathematical model of the plant, since, as it will by the specific MFC control scheme.
be presented in the next section, the MFC method uses a This paper is focused on the robustness analysis of the
particular representation of the system in its derivation. MFC method and its comparison to the classical PID con-
This model, also denoted as an ultra local model, is troller, which is undoubtedly the number one choice in
however significantly simplified when compared to the real industrial applications. The main contribution of this work
plant1 . Such reduction is nevertheless justified by the fact lies in the practical implementation of the MFC and its exper-
(and supported with concrete experimental results seen in [1] imental validation conducted on a 2DOF laboratory planar
or [6]) that for most of the real applications this approxima- manipulator. To the authors best knowledge, it is the first
tion is surprisingly “good enough” and provides satisfactory time when the MFC is used to govern a multidimensional
control performance when used for further controller synthe- plant.
sis. The positive side-effects of such simplification are that II. M ODEL –F REE C ONTROL
the MFC is less computationally complex as well as more
understandable to practitioners, compared to the majority A. The ultra-local plant modeling
of modern control tools (e.g. sliding-mode control, adaptive The idea of handling uncertainties with the MFC approach
control). is demonstrated first for a following single-input single-
The literature provides convincing amount of success- output, control-affine, n-th order system given as2,3 :
ful implementations of such trivialized structure, even for    
complex, nonlinear, and time-varying systems (see [3] and y(n) + fint y, ẏ, . . . , y(n−1) = fext (·)+g y, ẏ, . . . , y(n−1) +bu,
references therein). It is because the MFC approach, instead
where u is the plant control variable, y is the measurable
∗ R. Madoński and P. Herman are with the Chair of system output, g(·) stands for the known elements of the
Control and Systems Engineering, Faculty of Computing, Poznań system dynamics, fint (·) is the linear/nonlinear time-varying
University of Technology, ul. Piotrowo 3a, 61-138, Poznań, Poland, function with unknown structure and/or parameters, fext (·)
1 Such 2 Variables to be used in the following derivations are in most cases
mathematical description is often considered as a phenomenolog-
ical model of the system, which expresses mathematically the results of functions of other variables or parameters (like time), however a simplifying
observed phenomena without paying detailed attention to its fundamental notation, e.g. y, u, . . . instead of y(t), u(t), . . . will be used further on for the
significance. Models like these are frequently used is biological and chem- sake of the presentation clearance.
ical engineering. 3 Notation p(q) means the q-th time derivative of function p.
Fig. 1: The desired behavior of the disturbance-rejection scheme using the MFC control approach. Figure based on [8].

represents the unknown and unmeasurable overall external known dynamics (if available) in order to estimate the plant
perturbation acting on the system, and b 6= 0 denotes the uncertainty f (·).
unknown input scaling factor. In order to introduce the disturbance-rejection feature to
Due to the parametric and structural uncertainties, the the MFC, the estimated uncertainty fˆ(·), which full deriva-
above plant cannot be precisely modeled, hence one can tion for the m-th order system is omitted here but presented
rewrite it in an alternative form, in which the above complex thoroughly in [4], is added to the closed-loop control scheme,
and uncertain system can be replaced with the following ultra hence a following governing rule is proposed5 :
local model, which is valid only during a short time period:
fˆ(·) + g(·) 1  (m)
z }| {
f (·)
u=− + y + u∗ , (3)
b̂ d
z }| {
(m) (n−1) b̂
y = f y, ẏ, . . . , y , fext (·) +g(·) + b̂u, (1)
where u∗ is the feedback controller (FB), chosen by the
where m is a design parameter, representing the order of the operator, and yd is the additional feed-forward term (FF).
assumed model4 , and the overall uncertainty is defined as: The first component of the above sum is suppose to cancel
  the influence of both the resultant disturbance f (·) and the
f (·) = − fint y, ẏ, . . . , y(n−1) + fext (·) + (b − b̂)u, (2) known dynamics g(·), and the second one is responsible for
tracking the desired reference signal yd .
where b̂ 6= 0 denotes a rough estimate of b from (1), to be
By combining equations (1) with (3), while assuming that
tuned by the operator to meet a certain system closed-loop
fˆ(·) = f (·) and b̂ = b, one obtains a new following relation:
behavior. The resulting input-output dynamic system seen in
(1) is radically simplified by assuming that the important ad- (m)
fˆ(·) + g(·) yd + u∗
z }| {
ditive state-dependent terms as well as the unknown external y(m) = f (·)+g(·)+ b̂ − + = yd + u∗
perturbations may be lumped into an uniformly, absolutely b̂ b̂
bounded time-varying signal, treated as a disturbance input. which theoretically reduces the mostly unknown plant model
B. Uncertainty estimation and rejection (1) to a set of “pure” linear integrating actions with feedback
controller and a feed-forward term. One can now notice the
The assumed overall plant uncertainty f (·) is unmea-
crucial importance of the estimation part of the MFC scheme.
surable in general, however it can be estimated using a
A block diagram of the MFC method is depicted in Fig. 1,
straightforward parametric identification, which can be found (m)
where a following simplified notation is used: ū = yd + u∗ .
in [5]. This identification procedure uses some fundamental
mathematical tools such as operational calculus, module III. T HE 2DOF S YSTEM D ESCRIPTION
theory, and differential algebra. It allows to calculate the A. Physical characteristics
unknown parameters of the continuous-time constant linear
The considered two degree-of-freedom planar manipulator
system in a small time interval, thus achieving identification
(denoted as PM2R) is seen in Figure 2. Its axes of rotation
in closed loop, without any least squares and/or probabilistic
run parallel to each other and perpendicular to the gravity
approach. It is worth mentioning that the identification uses
vector. Lengths of the links are equal to L1 = 0.25m and L2 =
only the information about the system input, output, and its
0.18m, for the first and the second link, respectively. Thus,
4 In [2], Authors claim that m = 1 can be chosen for most of the practical the area of reachability of the end effector is limited by an
cases, since it provides the user with a model that is valid within a inner radius Rinn = 0.07m and an outer radius Rout = 0.43m.
sufficiently large operating range of the plant. Other thing is that the order
m does not have to be directly connected with the order n, since the real 5 In [2], [3], such control proposition with the disturbance rejection is
plant can be modeled e.g. with a partially differential equation. called an “intelligent” controller.
where the system parameters p1 -p5 are gathered in Table I, in
which m j [kg], J j [kg m2 ] are the mass and the moment of in-
ertia of the j-th link respectively, g[m/s2 ] is the gravitational
acceleration, Jm j [kg m2 ] is the moment of inertia of the j-th
motor shaft. The overall friction model consists of the joint as
well as the motor shaft frictions. The influence of the cross-
couplings is defined by (7) and (8), where for simplicity:
sm1 ≡ sin(qm1 ), cm1 ≡ cos(qm1 ), and cm12 ≡ cos(qm1 + qm2 ).
The driving torques stem directly from the electromechan-
ical model of the DC motors and can be simplified to:
kI j
τm j = (um j − kε j q̇m j ), (9)

where kI j [ NAm ] is the j-th motor torque constant, kε j rad

the j-th motor speed constant, and R j [Ω] is the j-th motor
coil electrical resistance.
From analyzing (5)-(9) one can notice the amount of in-
formation that the user would have to provide to the modern,
model-based control technique in order to effectively govern
the 2DOF planar manipulator. On the contrary, the MFC can
Fig. 2: The PM2R laboratory testbed. be applied here without accurately modeling the process,
which presents a departure from the model-based control
Each of the manipulator joint is driven with a ±12V
DC motor with a planetary gear attached to the shaft. The IV. E XPERIMENT P REPARATION
reduction ratios of the gears are equal to η1 = 1/36 and
η2 = 1/20.25 of the first and the second link, respectively. A. Reference signal
The limited input voltage results in system nonholonomic The desired trajectory for the position controller in the
constraints, which introduce additional signal uncertainty. On PM2R is planned in the Cartesian space. Thus, two different
each motor shaft, an impulse rotary encoder of resolution trajectories must be distinguished: the designed trajectory
p = 500 imp
rev is mounted. The control system is implemented (i.e. generated on the basis of an ideal shape path, defined
on a digital signal processor with fixed sampling rate set by the system operator) and the reference trajectory (i.e. the
to Ts = 0.001s. The initial point of the end effector in the result of an inverse kinematics process). An illustrative com-
task space (equal to the natural stable point, congruent with parison between the two considered trajectories is presented
the minimal potential energy of the system) is located in in Fig. 3.
Xmin [m] = (0, −L1 − L2 ), which corresponds to the configu-
ration qmin [rad] = (0, 0) in the joint space.
B. Implementation of MFC to PM2R
B. Mathematical model The MFC approach is implemented for the PM2R in a
The control variables of the PM2R system are the two DC decentralized manner, i.e. one MFC-based controller governs
motors input voltages um1 [V ] and um2 [V ]. The two output one degree-of-freedom of the manipulator, where each di-
signals from the system are angular positions qm1 [rad] and mension is represented with a second order uncertain system
qm2 [rad] of the first and the second motor shaft, respectively. (i.e. m = 2). Hence, two controllers (like the one seen in
In general, the model of the considered MIMO plant can Fig. 1) govern two dimensions of the PM2R, separately. The
be written as two scalar equations concerning each of the inevitable influence of the cross-coupling effects, together
manipulator links, as seen below: with most of the uncertain terms of the system dynamics
(like friction, inertia), is not included in the assumed plant
I j q̈m j + f j = τm j + τz j − τc j , for j = {1, 2}, (4) model. Hence, it is considered as a part of the modeling
uncertainty and treated in the MFC approach as an element
where I j [kg m2 ] denotes the inertia part of the system, f j [Nm]
is the friction model, τm j [Nm], τz j [Nm], and τc j [Nm] are
the driving, disturbance, and cross-coupling torques, respec- TABLE I: Parameters of the PM2R model.
tively. p1 [kg m2 ] m2 L22 + J2
The inertia part for the PM2R links can be described as: p2 [kg m2 ] 2m2 L1 L2
p3 [kg m2 ] J1 + m1 L12 + 4m2 L12
I1 = Jm1 + η12 (p1 + p3 ), p4 [Nm] m2 L2 g
(5) p5 [Nm] (m1 L1 + 2m2 L1 )g
I2 = Jm2 + η22 (p2 ),
τc1 = η1 q̈m1 p2 cm1 + η2 q̈m2 p2 cm2 − η1 q̇m1 η2 q̇m2 p2 sm2 − η2 q̇m2 p2 (η1 q̇m1 + η2 q̇m2 )sm2 + p5 c1 + p4 cm12 , (7)
τc2 = (p1 + p2 c2 )η2 q̈m2 + η22 q̇2m1 p2 sm2 + p4 cm12 . (8)

Fig. 3: Differences between “designed” and “reference” trajectories for the robot end effector (right) and a schematic
interpretation of the manipulator with the designed trajectory (left). Figure based on [8].

of the time-varying disturbance signal, to be estimated and D. Tuning methodology

mitigated in the closed-loop control structure6 .
Since the system operator does not have a reliable informa-
C. Planned tests tion about the mathematical model of the PM2R system, both
the PID and MFC controllers are tuned in E1 empirically,
The goal of the study is to practically verify the robustness
based on several experimental trials. The MFC controller
of the MFC method in controlling the multidimensional
uses a classic PID controller as its feedback control term u∗ .
plant, without its precise modeling information. The results
One extra parameter has to be tuned in the MFC - namely b̂ -
are compared with the outcomes of the classical PID con-
which directly influences the closed-loop performance of the
troller. The experiment is thus divided into two following
system, since it scales the control variable (as seen in (3)). It
should be thus chosen as a compromise between magnitude
E1 In the first part, both PID and MFC are tuned for of the whole control signal and the dynamic capabilities of
a “pure” PM2R mechanism (i.e. no additional mass the plant.
attached to the end effector). The goal here is to acquire
similar control quality in terms of desired path tracking
E. Polar coordinates error
in the presence of highly unknown and unpredictable
phenomena (due to lack of a precise mathematical In order to depict results in a more intuitive way, a polar
model). This part of the experiment is performed in coordinates error is proposed. The polar error directly shows
order to establish a fair comparison conditions for the modulus (ρ[rad]) and phase (ϕ[m]) errors, which can be
further parametric robustness test (E2). interpreted as errors in space and time. The joint space error
E2 In the second part, an additional mass madd = 0.2kg as well as the error in the Cartesian space do not have to be
(which increases the link weight by 20%) is mounted as evident in its importance as the polar coordinates error.
to the end effector and without extra modeling or any We choose the pole to be the central point (Ox , Oy ), seen
additional retuning after case E1 both of the control in Fig. 3. The error is described as follows:
systems are run again. The objective is to examine
the robustness of the MFC and PID in the case of eρ = ρd − ρ,
significantly increased moment of link inertia. eϕ = ϕd − ϕ,

6 Similar study was conducted in [8] using the PM2R manipulator and an where ρd [m] and ρ[m] describe the desired and the actual
Active Disturbance Rejection Control (ADRC) method. trajectory modulus, respectively, while ϕd [rad] and ϕ[rad]
represent the desired and the actual trajectory phase, respec-
tively. They are obtained by using following relations:
ρ = (x − Ox )2 + (y − Oy )2 ,
ϕ = atan2c (y − Oy , x − Ox ) ,
where x and y define the current position of the end effector
in 2D task space, atan2c(·) : ℜ2 → ℜ is a two argument,
continuous version of arcus tangent function.
F. Curvature projection error
The performance of the controllers is also verified from
the path tracking point of view, hence a Curvature Projection
Error (CPE) is introduced. The CPE is calculated for each
point of the end effector achieved path. All points of the
path are subscribed to one of four groups of points, each
representing one side of the designed path rectangle. The
CPE denotes the distance between the point of the achieved
path and the closest point in the designed path, with an
assumption that both points ought to be located in the same
In order to calculate the CPE, the user starts with choosing
an exemplary point on the path, tracked by the end effector, Fig. 4: Designed trajectory and actual trajectories obtained
and defined in the Cartesian coordinates as P = (Px , Py ). In for both of the controllers in the experiment E1.
the next step, the point on the reference path, which is the
nearest to the point P and is a part of equivalent group, is
described as: Pre f = (Pxre f , Pyre f ). The CPE graph shows the
minimal distances between points P and Pre f for all samples
of the actual path:
CPE = (Px − Pxre f )2 + (Py − Pyre f )2 . (8)
Desirably, the feedback controller (in this case PID or
MFC) should minimize the value of CPE in each time instant.
Fig. 5: Curvature projection error in the experiment E1.
A. PM2R control without extra mass (E1)
The graph comparing the designed trajectory with the
actual trajectories achieved for both of the tested control
algorithms is presented in Fig. 4. No noteworthy differences
can be seen here for the PID and MFC. The quality of path
tracking in means of the CPE is presented in Fig. 5, where
both controllers guaranteed CPE within a tunnel of ±10mm
after the initial transient phase, which corresponds to the
shape of the designed path being tracked with an acceptable
accuracy. Despite the transient stage, both MFC and PID
do not exceed ±1 × 10−2 m deviation from the designed Fig. 6: Modulus error eρ in the experiment E1.
trajectory, which is confirmed by the modulus error, depicted
in Fig. 6. The phase errors are presented in Fig. 7. The
positive value of phase error means that the trajectory stays
behind the designed one. The obtained results constitutes the
design of a fair comparison setup, ready for the robustness
study in E2.
B. PM2R control with extra, unmodeled mass (E2)
Comparison between the designed trajectory and the actual
paths of the manipulator end effector, obtained for the PID
and MFC methods, is seen in Fig. 8. The difference in
Fig. 7: Phase error eϕ in the experiment E1.
the control quality between the considered techniques is
now more noticeable than in E1. The PID controller did
not manage to deal with the artificially changed system
dynamics. On the contrary, the MFC executed the whole path
with satisfactory result. The CPE for the test E2 is presented
in Fig. 9. As it can be noticed after the transient phase, the
MFC kept the shape of the path significantly better than the
PID. The graphs presenting modulus and phase errors are
seen in Figs. 10 and 11, respectively. Both of them clearly
show that the PID controller did not produce satisfactory
outcome, resulting in unacceptable errors in both modulus
and phase.
The article presented an experimental verification of the
Model–Free Control (MFC) method, conducted on a 2DOF
laboratory manipulator, with its mathematical model mostly
unknown. The robotic system was controlled with a decen-
tralized version of the MFC, where a set of disturbance-
rejection controllers where governing each of the manipula-
tor degree-of-freedom separately. Obtained results showed
that the MFC approach is a powerful control tool, with
both robust and adaptive attributes. Its main advantage is Fig. 8: Designed trajectory and actual trajectories obtained
that, thanks to the estimation and rejection of the unwanted for both of the controllers in the experiment E2.
modeling errors, it does not require an explicit mathematical
modeling of the controlled process in order to provide
satisfactory output performance.
The scientific research and doctoral dissertation related
to this paper are partially funded by project “Scholarship
support for PhD students specializing in majors strategic
for Wielkopolska development”, sub-measure 8.2.2 Human
Capital Operational Programme, co-financed by European
Union under the European Social Fund.
Fig. 9: Curvature projection error in the experiment E2.
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