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Choosing Stepper- or Servo-Driven Actuators to Replace Air Cylinders

Pneumatic (air) cylinders are widely used in industrial automation due to their low per-axis cost and high-speed/force capabilities. They have a long history of being popular workhorses in the automation industry. However, there are many reasons to use electric actuators in place of air cylinders: reduced machine downtime, reduced energy consumption, increased precision, and increased speed. In addition, electric actuators can be powered by servo or stepper motors, in conjunction with a control device, to provide linear motion. Advantages of Electric Linear ActuatorsReduced downtime. Electric linear actuators (whether screw- or belt-driven) are very low-maintenance. Regreasing may be the only regular maintenance necessary, and many screw-driven models are lubricated for the life of the actuator.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Motion Control

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Custom Machines Create Engine Lip Skins on Boeing Aircraft

MJC Engineering, a custom machine tool builder in Huntington Beach, CA, specializes in metal-spinning machines for such applications as sheet spinning, flow forming, wheel spinning, and rotary forging. The company was commissioned to build a series of metal-spinning machines for GKN for use at its plants in Camarillo, CA and Orangeburg, SC. These machines produce lip skins for the engine housings on Boeing 777X and 737MAX aircraft. Using CNC from Siemens Industry (Elk Grove Village, IL) and robotic handling technology — in addition to its proprietary servopump-controlled Green Power™ hydraulic power unit that saves up to 40% on energy — the MJC team devised a unique solution to an engineering challenge brought to them by GKN.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Aviation, Motion Control

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Vote for Tech Briefs 22nd Annual Readers' Choice Awards

Each December, we ask our readers to cast their vote for the annual NASA Tech Briefs’ Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards. Each month, our editors choose a Product of the Month that has exceptional technical merit and practical value for our design engineering readers.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace

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High-Resolution Surface Measurement

Inspectors who are assessing the severity of defects and the dimensions of small features on precision machined surfaces are limited by the capabilities of existing measurement techniques. A new type of instrument has been developed that enables direct, non-contact inspection of precision surfaces in shop floor environments. By combining the resolution of optical techniques with the portability of a handheld gauge, the new technology gives inspectors an important tool for finding and quantifying critical features on machined components.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Test & Measurement

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Optical Fiber Sensors for Infrastructure Monitoring

Virtually every type of public infrastructure — including bridges, pipelines, tunnels, foundations, roadways, dams, etc. — is subject to factors that can degrade it or lead to malfunctions. These structural problems can be the result of deterioration, improper construction methods, seismic activity, or nearby construction work. Although electrical strain gauges have long been used for monitoring structural changes, they sometimes lack the durability and integrity necessary to provide accurate, actionable information over extended periods.

Posted in: Articles, Optics, Test & Measurement

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ECG Small Signal General and Analysis

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is the most common way to identify various ailments, especially when the ailment is related to the heart. To perform an ECG, the medical personnel places the leads on the patient’s skin. The leads measure the heart’s electrical activity of one heartbeat cycle and record it as a continuous line tracing on paper to produce a graph. The ECG signal may indicate:

Posted in: Articles, Diagnostics, Medical, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

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Automating Roadbed Testing Before Paving

The normal road construction process involves subgrade (the existing soil) preparation followed by placement of an aggregate layer, and then the pavement surface layer (asphalt or concrete). In practice, most highways are designed using a set of assumptions that is sufficiently conservative to ensure that the roadway will meet its minimum specifications over its design life. The cost of the pavement layer can be optimized by testing the firmness of the prepared roadbed before paving. The testing process validates the basic design assumptions, and enables the amount of pavement to be tailored or optimized for each segment of the road. Ingios Geotechnics (Northfield, MN) was formed to develop and manufacture equipment to automate the process.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Automotive, Test & Measurement

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