News

Robotic Fabric Moves and Contracts

Researchers are developing a robotic, sensor-embedded fabric that moves and contracts. Such an elastic technology could enable a new class of soft robots, stretchable garments, "g-suits" for pilots or astronauts to counteract acceleration effects, and lightweight, versatile robots to roam alien landscapes during space missions.The robotic fabric is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy. The strands return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move."We have integrated both actuation and sensing, whereas most robotic fabrics currently in development feature only sensing or other electronic components that utilize conductive thread," said Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University. "We also use standard sewing techniques to introduce the thread-like actuators and sensors into the fabric, so they could conceivably be integrated into the existing textile manufacturing infrastructure."SourceAlso: See other Sensors tech briefs.

Posted in: Materials, Plastics, Motion Control, Sensors, Aerospace, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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International Space Station Test Analyzes Rotation of Objects in Space

Objects in space tend to spin in a way that's totally different from the way they spin on Earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any space mission. MIT researchers developed a new algorithm for gauging the rotation of objects in zero gravity using only visual information. They tested the algorithm aboard the International Space Station.

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Motion Analysis Detects Joint Degeneration

If joints do no longer work as usual, humans tend to compensate this by unconsciously adapting their motions. In the case of knee arthrosis, or excessive joint wear, they shift the weight to the healthy leg. This relieves the worn knee joint, but also delays the pain that would indicate the start of arthrosis. Based on a computer-supported gait analysis, researchers are developing an early warning system for routine prevention.

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3D Printer Heads to International Space Station

The first 3D printer is soon to fly into Earth orbit, finding a home aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The size of a small microwave, the unit is called Portal. The hardware serves as a testbed for evaluating how well 3D printing and the microgravity of space combine. The soon-to-fly 3D printer can churn out plastic objects within a span of 15 minutes to an hour.The technology works by extruding heated plastic, and then builds successive layers to make a three-dimensional object. In essence, the test on the ISS might well lead to establishing a “machine shop” in space. The 3D printer experiment is being done under the tech directorate's Game Changing Development Program, a NASA thrust that seeks to identify and rapidly mature innovative/high impact capabilities and technologies for infusion in a broad array of future NASA missions.According to the team, manufacturing assets in space, as opposed to launching them from Earth, will accelerate and broaden space development while providing unprecedented access for people on Earth to use in-space capabilities. SourceAlso: Learn about Ammonia Leak Detection on the ISS.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Plastics, Test & Measurement, Aerospace, News

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Researchers Equip Robot with Novel Tactile Sensor

Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port.The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed by the lab of Edward Adelson, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science at MIT, and first described in 2009. The new sensor isn’t as sensitive as the original GelSight sensor, which could resolve details on the micrometer scale. But it’s smaller — small enough to fit on a robot’s gripper — and its processing algorithm is faster, so it can give the robot feedback in real time.A GelSight sensor — both the original and the new, robot-mounted version — consists of a slab of transparent, synthetic rubber coated on one side with a metallic paint. The rubber conforms to any object it’s pressed against, and the metallic paint evens out the light-reflective properties of diverse materials, making it much easier to make precise optical measurements.In the new device, the gel is mounted in a cubic plastic housing, with just the paint-covered face exposed. The four walls of the cube adjacent to the sensor face are translucent, and each conducts a different color of light — red, green, blue, or white — emitted by light-emitting diodes at the opposite end of the cube. When the gel is deformed, light bounces off of the metallic paint and is captured by a camera mounted on the same cube face as the diodes.From the different intensities of the different-colored light, the algorithms developed by Adelson’s team can infer the three-dimensional structure of ridges or depressions of the surface against which the sensor is pressed. Source Read other Sensors tech briefs.

Posted in: Photonics, Optics, Materials, Motion Control, Sensors, Lighting, LEDs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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September Executive Outlook - Funding the Medtech Pipeline

This edition is sponsored by Renishaw and KMC Systems. SPONSOR MESSAGE New miniature encoder is the building block of motion systems Renishaw launches ATOM™ — an innovative non-contact optical linear and rotary incremental encoder system that combines miniaturization with leading-edge dirt immunity, signal stability, and reliability. ATOM is the world's first miniature encoder to use filtering optics. The same advanced technology is found in Renishaw's proven TONiC(TM) incremental encoder. Learn more >> Funding the Medtech Pipeline Recent reports offer scant hope of improved funding support for medtech entrepreneurs Steve Halasey, Contributing Editor Among medical device and diagnostics companies, deals and dollars are rarely so plentiful that they can support more than a single strong market trend. As a result, investment flows in one area have a tendency to overpower alternatives, making it hard for investors to learn about or get interested in approaches that buck the trend. There's little room for a minority report.

Posted in: News, MDB

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Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Our lead story in today's INSIDER revealed engineers' attempts to power an electric car with removable, rechargeable battery modules. The potentially game-changing technology, however, faces challenges. The modules weigh 20 to 30 pounds, and no infrastructure currently exists for users to lease or purchase the rechargeable devices, for example. The engineers, however, say that they expect the battery technology to mature and shrink in size, and that exchange stations could easily be gradually deployed. What do you think? Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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