Mechanical & Fluid Systems

MEMS Move Wearables Beyond Touch Interfaces

We use touch, the dominant user interface for years, to tap keyboards on laptops and tablets, to communicate with our car’s portable GPS, and to text friends and take photos from our smartphones.

Posted in: Articles, MEMs, Sensors, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Human machine interface (HMI)

Servo Couplings for High-Tech Systems

Proper coupling ensures a design will meet performance requirements and have a long, trouble-free life.

Couplings are a critical part of system performance in high-tech applications, yet they are often one of the last components to be specified. Selecting the proper coupling ensures the equipment will meet performance requirements and have a long, trouble-free life. Poor coupling selection can lead to high maintenance costs, frequent downtime, and imprecise positioning.

Posted in: Articles, Joining & Assembly, Motion Control, Power Transmission, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Materials properties, Fittings, Parts

Metallic Glass Shatters Gear Limitations

Gears play an essential role in precision robotics, and they can become a limiting factor when the robots must perform in space missions. In particular, the extreme temperatures of deep space pose numerous problems for successful gear operation. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators aim to bypass the limitations of existing steel gears by creating gears from bulk metallic glass (BMG).

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Metals, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Robotics, Robotics, Alloys, Glass, Gears, Durability, Durability, Spacecraft

Adding SCADA to a Hydraulic Power Unit

With an increased focus on plant productivity and equipment reliability, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems have become vital tools to reduce downtime while increasing asset reliability in hydraulic systems. A SCADA system is a computer system that essentially gathers and analyzes real-time data.

Posted in: Articles, Fluid Handling, Motion Control, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Hydraulic and pneumatic hybrid power, Productivity, Hydraulic control

Products of Tomorrow: April 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.

This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. If you are interested in licensing the technologies described here, use the contact information provided. To learn about more available technologies, visit the NASA Technology Transfer Portal at

Posted in: Articles, Products, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Joining & Assembly, Mechanical Components, Optical Components, Optics, Connectors and terminals, Optics, Connectors and terminals, Optics

Magnetic Fluids Deliver Better Speaker Sound Quality

NASA’s liquid magnetization technology helps Sony increase sound amplitude while reducing distortion.

In the early 1960s, NASA scientists were trying to move fuel into an engine without the benefit of gravity. A scientist at Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center) came up with the idea to magnetize the liquid with extremely fine particles of iron oxide. That way, fuel could be drawn into the engine using magnetic force.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff, Electronics, Joining & Assembly, Seals and gaskets

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, Materials handling, Mountings, Spacecraft

Cooling Test Samples With a Combined Convective and Conductive System to Rapidly Reach 77 K

This innovation enables rapid cooling to 77 K of James Webb Space Telescope shields, which enables hypervelocity impact testing with micro-particle spheres.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

In this innovation, a team successfully developed and implemented a combined convective and conductive cooling system that permits rapid cooling. Using a spray system, liquid nitrogen (LN2) was injected into a test article enclosure located in the target tank that was evacuated to a lower pressure than the surrounding ambient pressure of the White Sands Test Facility (WSTF). According to the saturation curve for nitrogen, temperatures lower than 77 K can be achieved by using the evaporative process as long as the pressure remains above the triple point where nitrogen ice is formed.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Test & Measurement, Containers, Cooling, Spraying, Test equipment and instrumentation

Variable-Sweep-Wing Aircraft Configuration

There are significant improvements in structural, aerodynamic, and energy efficiency.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Efficient aircraft designs are increasingly desired in order to support the continued growth of the air transportation industry. Continued expansion of this vital mode of transportation is threatened due to concerns over ever-increasing emissions, noise, and the demand for fuel. Current airport runway, ramp, and terminal facilities are increasingly constrained by encroaching growth and neighborhood environmental issues. The challenges associated with ever-increasing demand for air travel will require the development of aircraft that can fly efficiently over wide speed ranges, minimize their environmental impacts, offer the potential for sizing and growth relative to market demand, and make efficient use of constrained airport and airspace resources.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Aviation, Energy Efficiency, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mechanical Components, Fuselages, Wings, Product development, Aircraft

NASA's Hot 100 Technologies: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Spring Joint Package with Overstrain Sensor

This flexible joint provides two degrees of freedom and a tremendous amount of compliance. The overstrain sensor joint has a passive and restoring force that allows the joint to return to a default position, and is also proportional to the amount of lateral deflection the spring has undergone; this allows the OS sensor joint to be used in many of the under-constrained situations that cause universal joints to lock up.

Posted in: Articles, Techs for License, Fluid Handling, Motors & Drives

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