Motion Control

Rocket Motor Design Could Boost Small Satellite Missions

Artists concept of a CubeSat onboard propulsion system. (Photo: Inside Out Visuals) Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a rocket motor concept that could be used to power CubeSat low-cost satellites. The Los Alamos team recently tested a six-motor CubeSat-compatible propulsion array with tremendous success.

Posted in: News, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission

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Morphing Wing Could Enable More Efficient Manufacturing and Flight

The entire shape of the wing can be changed by activating two small motors that apply a twisting pressure to each wingtip. (Photo: Kenneth Cheung/NASA) A new morphing wing architecture could greatly simplify the manufacturing process and reduce fuel consumption of aircraft by improving the wing’s aerodynamics, as well as improving its agility. The wing consists of a system of tiny, lightweight subunits that could be assembled by a team of small, specialized robots, and ultimately could be used to build the entire airframe. The wing would be covered by a “skin” made of overlapping pieces that might resemble scales or feathers.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Motors & Drives

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Spherical Motor Eliminates Robot’s Mechanical Drive System

The spherical induction motor eliminates the robot's mechanical drive system. The SIMbot robot features an elegant motor with just one moving part: the ball. The only other active moving part of the robot is the body itself. A spherical induction motor (SIM) eliminates the mechanical drive system and can move the ball in any direction using only electronic controls. These movements keep SIMbot’s body balanced atop the ball.

Posted in: News, Motors & Drives

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New Steel Enables Better Electric Motors

Jun Cui of Iowa State University’s Ames Laboratory works with a metal spinner, which rapidly solidifies metal into thin ribbons. (Photo by Christopher Gannon) In order to make plug-in electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as internal-combustion cars, their motors must be smaller, lighter, more powerful, and more cost-effective. A research team is working to develop motors with the stator core (a non-rotating, magnetic part) manufactured with thin layers of a new “electrical steel.”

Posted in: News, Motors & Drives

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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

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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

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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

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