Motion Control

Products of Tomorrow: March 2015

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.

Posted in: Articles, Products, Aviation, Electronics & Computers, Motion Control, Detectors, Sensors


Reactionless Drive Tube Sampling Device and Deployment Method

Springs and a counter-mass create a powerful and stable sampling device. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A sampling device and a deployment method were developed that allow collection of a predefined sample volume from up to a predefined depth, precise sampling site selection, and low impact on the deploying spacecraft. This device is accelerated toward the sampled body, penetrates the surface, closes a door mechanism to retain the sample, and ejects a sampling tube with the sample inside. At the same time the drive tube is accelerated, a sacrificial reaction mass can be accelerated in the opposite direction and released in space to minimize the momentum impact on the spacecraft. The energy required to accelerate both objects is sourced locally, and can be a spring, cold gas, electric, or pyrotechnic. After the sample tube is ejected or extracted from the drive tube, it can be presented for analysis or placed in a sample return capsule.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Motors & Drives


Developing Ceramic-Like Bulk Metallic Glass Gears

This technology has applications in gears, bearings, and gearboxes for automotive, spacecraft, and robotics. This invention describes systems and methods for implementing bulk metallic glass-based (BMG) macroscale gears with high wear resistance. This invention creates bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) with selected mechanical properties that are very similar to ceramics, such as high strength and resistance to wear, but without high melting temperatures. Ceramics are high-strength, hard materials that are typically used for their extremely high melting temperatures. Because of their extreme hardness, ceramics are optimal materials for making gears, due to their low wear loss. Unfortunately, ceramics suffer from low fracture toughness (typically <1 MPa·m1/2), and their high melting temperatures prevent them from being cast into net-shaped parts. Ceramic gears, for example, must be ground to a final shape at great expense.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Ceramics, Materials, Metals, Motion Control


Google Glass for Industrial Automation

A new concept uses Google Glass for operating machinery, with all of the benefits delivered by wearable computing in an industrial environment. With Google’s Web-enabled glasses, status or dialog messages can be projected via a head-up display directly into a person’s field of vision. Online information and communication is also possible with this innovative device, and error messages can be acknowledged using a touchpad.

Posted in: Articles, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Motion Control, Optics, Machinery & Automation


Energy Efficiency in Machine Tools

Discussions of the efficient use of energy have become more frequent in many sectors of industry. Machine tools comprise numerous motors and auxiliary components whose energy consumption can vary strongly during machining. The main spindle drive, for example, and the coolant system work near their rated power during roughing with a high stock removal rate, while the power consumption during finishing is significantly lower. There is a very close interdependence between the individual components and subassemblies of a machine tool and aspects of productivity and quality. From a detailed examination of manufacturing processes to the power consumption of individual components, potential for savings can be evaluated and measures can be defined for the efficient use of energy.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Articles, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Machinery & Automation


Robust Gimbal System for Small-Payload Manipulation

This is a low-mass, small-volume gimbal unit. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Spaceborne gimbal systems are typically bulky with large footprints. Such a gimbal system may consist of a forked elevation stage rotating on top of the azimuth motor, and occupy a large volume. Mounting flexibility of such a system may be limited.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Motors & Drives


A Phase-Changing Pendulum to Control Spherical Robots and Buoy Sensors

The pendulum adds new flexibility to motion control. A novel mechanical control system has been proposed for spherical robots to be used as multifunctioning sensor buoys in areas with ambient forces such as winds or currents. The phase-changing pendulum has been specifically designed for Moballs, a self-powered and controllable multifunctioning spherical sensor buoy to be used in the Arctic and Antarctica, or in other solar system planets or moons with atmosphere, such as Mars or Titan. The phase-changing pendulum has been designed to function in different phases: 1) When used as the spherical buoy, the Moball needs to take advantage of external forces such as the wind for its mobility. With no constraints, it could keep the center of mass in the geometric center of the sphere to facilitate the sphere’s movement. 2) However, as soon as the Moball needs to slow down or stop, the sphere’s center of mass can be lowered. 3) Furthermore, the phase-changing pendulum could lean to the sides, thereby changing the direction of the Moball by biasing its center of mass to the corresponding side. The Moballs could take advantage of such a novel phase-changing pendulum to go as fast as possible using the ambient winds, and to stop or steer away when facing hazardous objects or areas (such as the gullies), or when they need to stop in an area of interest in order to perform extensive tests. It is believed that this is the very first time that a pendulum has been suggested to control a spherical structure where both the length and the angle of the pendulum are adjustable in order to control the sphere. 4) Finally, the phase-changing pendulum could also control the sphere in the absence of wind. The spherical sensor buoys or Moballs could use the stored harvested energy (e.g., from sunlight or earlier wind-driven motions) to move the phase-changing pendulum and create torque, and make the spherical sensor buoys initiate rolling with the desired speed and direction. This is especially useful when the spheres need to get close to an object of interest in order to examine it.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, Motion Control


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