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Heat Adjustment

As the robots walk around, get up and play soccer, one must handle the warming up of the motors. On one hand at different temperatures the controllers of the motors will reduce the stiffness automatically and if ignored will reduce the stiffness so much that doing anything apart from standing becomes impossible. On the other hand if ignored even further one may risk damage to the motors.

A normal approach to handle this problem is to let the robots just stand more around instead of walking all the time. Berlin United 1 already noticed that this is not sufficient enough as the robots remain in a state of permanent tension. We looked into it too and noticed that even though the differences of the requested joint positions and measured ones can be very low or even measured to be 0, the currents on the motors can exceed 1000 mA.

The threshold that Berlin United found was that currents of more than 300 mA heat up the motors. Inspired by their solution we implemented our own, which takes the same ideas but with some more overengineering.


The implementation is done in the module EnergySavingProvider. The idea is that other modules, which generate the request for the joints, the so called representation JointRequest, can use functions implemented by EnergySavingProvider to adjust the JointRequest by small amounts to prevent a warming up of the motors or even achieve a cooling down effect.

The main function applyHeatAdjustment() implements this logic which is shown below. Based on the last state in the previous motion frame the function knows if the energy saving mode was active or not. If it was not then (in ::off) initial offsets are determined for the leg joints IF the robot is in the normal standing posture. Afterwards for up to 100 ms is waited (in ::waiting). Then once every 0.5 seconds (in ::working) the leg joint with the highest current and all arm joints with a current of above 300 mA are adjusted. If the robot is NOT in the normal standing posture then all leg joints with a current of above 300 mA are adjusted.

In case the robot is picked up, placed back to the ground, the module calling the function no longer wants to apply a heat adjustment or the current offsets grew too large a reset is started. Here (in ::resetState) all offsets are interpolated back to 0 over a short time. Afterwards the heat adjustment can start once again.

EnergySavingProvider Diagram


The module EnergySavingProvider implements two different behaviors, depending on the parameter accuratePositions. If accuratePositions=false is set the energy saving mode is used. Otherwise the JointRequest is manipulated in such a way that the measured positions result in the original requested ones. This is used for only special use cases and not for playing soccer, as the joints will heat up even faster.


The implementation of the adjustment works as follows. The adjustment for a specific joint is only updated if the current of it is above a given threshold. If the adjustment for the leg joint is below 1.5 degree then an adjustment is done if the current is above 100 mA. Otherwise 300 mA is used as a threshold. For arm joints 30 mA is always used.

If the threshold is exceeded, than a counter is increased for this joint. It counts how often this specific joint was adjusted. If the counter does not exceed a given threshold (stepsBeforeEmergencyStep, currently set to 10) then the adjustment is updated as follows.

If the difference of the last requested and measured position is bigger than 0.2 degrees (0.458366 degrees for arms) then this value is used as an additional adjustment. Otherwise use 0.0286479 degrees as an adjustment value. Note that this value is a lot smaller than the actually min step size, which is around 0.08 degrees.

In the case the counter exeeded the given threshold then the max step size is used too, even if the difference between the requested and measured position is near 0.

With this logic we achieve quite fast a state where all leg joints measure below 300 mA. On worn-out robots we once had the problem that this was not enough and mostly the knee joints kept heating up. With those emergency jumps and the initial offset calculation we can let any robot stand around without heating up. Also with those very small steps of 0.0286479 we are able to achieve below 50 mA for most if not all legs joints after a few seconds of standing.

The effect on the currents is shown in the graphic below. The robot was walking until around the time mark 400 and transitioned into the high stand posture (stretched out knees). The currents could be quickly reduced until the robot started walking again at around the time mark 1400 (first transitioning into the normal walk height and then starting to walk at around 1900). At the time mark around 2300 another stand phase (without stretched out knees) starts and reduces quickly all currents below the 300 mA mark and afterwards even further below 100 mA.

EnergySavingProvider Diagram


With our current solution we can ensure that our goalie and most of the time our defenders too are only slightly heated up after a half time. Normally our goalie only gained a few celius in temperature, even though the robot was standing 10 minutes straight in the normal stand posture, where the knee pitches are Not stretched out.

This allows us to switch the robots in their position in a half time pause, e.g. switching a field player with the goalie and defenders with forward players. As a result only a few robots are barely reaching a heating state, e.g. a state in which the controllers are reducing the stiffnesses of the motors. For playoff games most robots will reach the heating state, as those games take a few minutes longer. But even then we had no problems so far with robots not being able to play anymore. This might change in the future, as there is a huge behavior problem to let the robots know that they can just stand where they are instead of permanently walking.

Compared to years before we used this heat adjustment, we had multiple games in the past where robots needed to be picked up in the second half because the motors heated up too much and the robots kept falling. We even had games where our goalie, which had nothing to do apart from standing around, already reached a heat state after only 3 minutes in the first half.

  1. Heinrich Mellmann - Berlin United - Nao Team Humboldt Team Report 2016 , Adaptive Systeme, Institut für Informatik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2016 

Last update: August 8, 2023