In this paper, an enhanced sliding mode control (SMC)-based controller known as backstepping-sliding mode control (B-SMC) with an adaptive friction observer is proposed for position tracking control of pneumatic actuators. The adverse effect of friction encountered in the pneumatic actuators which play a major role in pneumatic servo system is highlighted and a solution to rectify this is proposed using an adaptive LuGre-based friction observer for friction compensation. The B-SMC is experimentally applied, for the first time, on a double-acting single-rod industrial pneumatic cylinder. Comprehensive derivation as well as stability proof of the controller is presented. The performance of B-SMC with and without the friction observer is experimentally investigated. From the results, it is clearly observed that the B-SMC with the adaptive friction observer performs better (i.e. reduces the tracking as well steady-state errors of up to 30%) than the one without friction observer. Thus, the adaptive friction observer of B-SMC is identified as the key element that improved the control performance by compensating the adverse effect of friction during the position tracking tasks.

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