Motion Control

Improving Stirling Engine Performance Through Optimized Piston and Displacer Motion

Stirling engines typically achieve high efficiency, but lack power density. Low power density prevents them from being used in many applications where internal combustion engines are viable competitors, and increases system costs in applications that require Stirling engines. This limits their operating envelope in both terrestrial and space applications. Sinusoidal piston and displacer motion is one of the causes of low power density. Previous work proposed solving this problem by replacing sinusoidal waveforms with waveforms that more closely approximate those of the ideal Stirling cycle. However, when working with real engines, imposing ideal waveforms has been shown to reduce power density and efficiency due to increased pressure drop through the regenerator and heat exchangers.

Posted in: Briefs, Fluid Handling, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Motors & Drives, Engine efficiency, Pistons, Stirling engines

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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, Sensors and actuators, Electric motors, Durability

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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, Automation, Robotics, Optics, Kinematics, Automation, Production, 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, Optimization, Energy conservation, Electric drives, Electric motors

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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, Electronic brake controls, Springs, Magnetic materials

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A Method for Accurate Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators

NASA has developed a technique designed to prevent cross-coupling in systems where two or more linear electro-mechanical actuators (EMA) are rigidly connected and are in danger of becoming cross-coupled. In such systems where the linked EMAs are commanded to achieve two distinct goals, such as position and load control, control problems often arise — especially at higher load and linear velocity levels. Both position and load control become inaccurate and in certain situations, stability of the overall system may be compromised. The NASA-developed approach mitigates the problem and achieves both accurate position following and desired load levels between the two (or more) actuators.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Positioning Equipment, Electronic control systems, Electronic equipment, Sensors and actuators

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Simplified Machine Design Approach for Optimal Servomotor Control

An often asked question from industrial machine builders or integrators is how they can effectively design or implement the conversion of a machine with servo technology to meet performance expectations. This is a specialized task filled with layers of complexity that can prove difficult to execute, even when the scope of work is fully understood.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Design processes, Sensors and actuators, Industrial vehicles and equipment

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