Final Project Proposal: Design and Fabrication of a 3-Axis Gimbal

Machine(s): Unknown | Material(s): Unknown

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Official Assignment Description:
'update your final project proposal
what's the goal?
what's the prior art?
what are the systems and components?
what questions will you need to answer?'

As an aerospace engineer I often find myself dealing with the rotational dynamics of air and spacecraft in three degrees of freedom (meaning the vehicles are free to rotate about an arbitrary 3-axis coordinate system). As visualization of these angles can be challenging (especially when coordinate transformation are involved), I thought it might be helpful to develop a physical tool to visualize what is happening. I propose to design and build a 3-axis gimbal which can rotate a given model about the three earth-fixed coordinate axes. The model interface will be generic as to support any air or spacecraft model of 6" or less and can be controlled manually or by program. Programs will be loaded onto an onboard processor via serial connection and will specify rotations and rotation rates; this will allow the user to specify a pre-defined set of angles and rates and to visualize the result.

The rest of this page will be devoted to answering the questions listed above.

Thoughts and Planning

The Goal: To create a 3-axis gimbal capable of mounting any 6" model via generic interface and controlling its orientation via closed-loop digital control.
Prior Art: As of yet I have been unable to find a commercial product to suit the above description (although gimbals themselves have been used extensively in aerospace).
Systems and Components: Relevant systems include: the base, control panel, electronics + microprocessor, servos, gimbal structures, and air / spacecraft models.
(Main) Questions to Answer:

  1. What will I make the base, control panel, and gimbal structure out of?
  2. How will I interface the servos securely to the gimbal structure and base?
  3. What kind of microcontroller and electronics will I use?
  4. What will the control panel / user interface look like?
  5. How will the models interface with the inner gimbal?
  6. What will I make the models out of (complex geometry, approx 6" size)?

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