Energy-Efficient Routing of a Multirobot Station: A Flexible Time-Space Network Approach

Jianbin Xin, Chuang Meng, Andrea D'Ariano, Frederik Schulte, Jinzhu Peng, Rudy R. Negenborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This paper investigates a novel routing problem of a multi-robot station in a manufacturing cell. In the existing literature, the objective is to minimize the cycle time or energy consumption separately. The routing problem considered in this paper aims to reduce the cycle time and energy consumption jointly for each robot while avoiding collisions between these robots. For this routing problem, we propose a new flexible time-space network model that allows us to reduce energy consumption while minimizing the cycle time. The corresponding optimization problem is Mixed-Integer Nonlinear Programming (MINLP). For addressing its computational complexity, this paper designs a metaheuristic algorithm tailored to the studied problem and proposes an <inline-formula> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\varepsilon$</tex-math> </inline-formula>-constraint algorithm to study the trade-off between these two objectives. We conduct industrially relevant simulation experiments of case studies to show its effectiveness, in comparison to a conventional method, two state-of-the-art solvers, and two commonly-used metaheuristics. The results show that the proposed methodology can reduce energy consumption by up to 30% without compromising the cycle time. Meanwhile, the proposed algorithm can provide efficient solutions within a reasonable computation time. <italic>Note to Practitioners</italic>&#x2014;This paper is motivated by the problem of improving energy efficiency when routing cooperative robots in a manufacturing station. In current approaches for routing multi-robot stations, the cycle time and energy consumption are minimized separately. This paper focuses on the movement of the robot end-effector and its connected joint and suggests a new approach to minimize these two objectives jointly by proposing a new mathematical model. The resulting planning problem is computationally intractable. A customized metaheuristic algorithm is thus designed for efficiently solving this planning problem. Our meta-heuristic algorithm is integrated with the <inline-formula> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\varepsilon$</tex-math> </inline-formula>-constraint method to study the relationship between these two objectives. Simulation experiments suggest that this approach can reduce energy consumption considerably, for the shortest cycle time, compared with the current approaches. In future research, the movements of multi-joints will be investigated whereby 3-D collision-free trajectory planning will be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Jul 2022


  • Collision avoidance
  • collision avoidance
  • energy consumption
  • Energy consumption
  • flexible time-space network model
  • Multi-robot systems
  • Planning
  • Robot kinematics
  • Robots
  • Routing
  • routing
  • Task analysis


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