Precision Robotics and Automation: Hexapods Advance Production Processes

Hexapods — six-legged parallel-kinematic machines — are quickly gaining ground in a broad range of industrial automation applications after “learning” how to directly communicate with PLC or CNC controllers via Fieldbus interfaces. As far as the semiconductor and electronics industry, automobile industry, and precision assembly are concerned, many production processes have become inconceivable without them. Today, the six-axis positioning systems are available with load capacity from 2 kg to 2000 kg, and travel from 10 to hundreds of millimeters while maintaining submicron precision. Hexapods are used for aligning the smallest optical components in the latest silicon photonics production processes, for controlling automated labeling machines, and positioning entire body parts for automotive production. The intrinsic hexapod features contribute to a wealth of new possibilities in robotics.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Machinery & Automation, Robotics


Learning the "Keys" of IoT Security

Network-connected devices provide many opportunities to improve and enrich people’s lives, but the “Internet of Things” has a range of definitions. A consumer’s experience with the “IoT” may be a wearable computer for fitness tracking. A physician may place a connected heartbeat monitor on a patient. An industrial engineer may see the Internet of Things as thousands of sensor points that provide measurements of temperatures, pressures, or valve states.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Sensors


CryoFOSS Optical Sensor Offers Next-Level Liquid Measurement

NASA engineer Allen Parker and a team at Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed a fiber-optic-based sensing technology that accurately pinpoints and measures liquid levels. The CryoFOSS, or Cryogenic Fiber Optic Sensing System, uses fiber optic Bragg sensors, located along a single cable, to actively discern between liquid and gas states. The technology can be employed in a variety of applications, from NASA’s rockets to a winery’s storage tanks.

Posted in: Articles, Sensors


NASA’s Pursuit of Power

Advances in batteries and propulsion enable innovations in both terrestrial and deep-space power applications. Advances in Capacitor MaterialsElectrochemical capacitors, or supercapacitors, have gained intense interest as an alternative to traditional energy storage devices. Applications for supercapacitors range from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to backup power sources. While the power density of supercapacitors surpasses that of batteries, commercially available batteries have a significantly higher specific energy density.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Power Management, Propulsion, Batteries, Energy storage systems, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Nanomaterials, Spacecraft


Rice Crop Models Stabilize Global Markets and Enable Efficient Irrigation

NASA satellite data gives rice producers and buyers comprehensive crop projections. When global food prices spiked dramatically in late 2007 and into 2008, with the costs of many basic dietary staples doubling or even tripling, protests and riots upset much of the developing world. Following the price spike, world leaders gathered to figure out how to foresee and avert such market instabilities in the future, and a major product of those meetings was the Group on Earth Observations’ Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative, carried out by a partnership of governments and international organizations in the G20 nations. The initiative relies primarily on satellite Earth-imaging data to improve projections of crop production and weather forecasting.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff, Aerospace, Imaging and visualization, Sustainable development, Weather and climate, Satellites


Advantages of Servo Motor and Direct Drive Technology

For many years, stepper motors have been the most popular type of electric motor designed into instrumentation for a wide variety of reasons. Stepper motors have become increasingly commoditized, and can be sourced easily. In addition, the growing “maker movement” has simultaneously made them more popular and reduced their cost. Unlike servo motors, stepper motors don’t require tuning to optimize their performance. What’s more, scaling and motion commands are typically quick and simple to execute using stepper motors. Servo motors often require a bit more expertise in executing complicated (torque, velocity, or position) loop closures. Finally, micro-stepping allows most modern drive electronics to step or increment a stepper motor to a resolution of 50,800 steps per revolution or higher.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Motors & Drives


An Inside Look at Electromechanical Power-Off Braking Options

Making the right choice between spring set and permanent magnet brakes can impact safety, durability, maintenance, and performance. Power-off brakes are designed to hold or stop motion in the absence of power. Adding an electrical current releases the brake, freeing the load for motion. Given the safety ramifications of keeping a system locked in place until it is powered up, motion control system designers tend to specify power-off brakes more often than power-on brakes. There are, however, two different failsafe brake technologies: one uses compression springs to hold its load in place, and the other uses permanent magnets. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses, and knowing the difference can impact safety, durability, cost, and performance.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Electronic brake controls, Springs, Magnetic materials


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