Special Coverage

Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

3D Imaging Reveals Sub-surface Battery Flaws

Ed Barnard

Traditional imaging technologies have been used to investigate overall solar efficiency, but many of the methods only offer surface views. A new – and “exciting” – ultra-fast laser technique developed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provides a deeper look and maps a solar cell in three dimensions.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Photonics, Batteries, Imaging and visualization, Lasers, Solar energy, Performance tests

Autonomous Vehicles Open Up New Roads for LIDAR Growth

Laser range-finding, or LIDAR, is a way of measuring distance, directly analogous to radar except using radiation in the near infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum rather than the radio waves used in radar. LIDAR techniques are used for a variety of final applications including terrain-mapping for geology, urban planning and archaeology; distance measurement for surveying, golf, hunting, military applications, and docking of large ships; and speed measurement for traffic monitoring and speed limit enforcement.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Measurements, Lidar, Autonomous vehicles

NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space

Bill Klipstein

The standard way for spacecraft to communicate with teams on the ground has been to use radio waves. NASA, however, will test the use of lasers to increase data communication rates by as much as 100 times. In a Technology Leaders Q&A, JPL physicist Bill Klipstein explains his role as project manager of NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) mission.

Posted in: Articles, Photonics, Lasers, Wireless communication systems, Spacecraft

Products of Tomorrow: April 2017

This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

Posted in: Articles, Products, Manufacturing & Prototyping

Today's Automobile: Supercomputer on Wheels

With every passing year, it's getting more difficult to recognize the current crop of passenger vehicles as the descendants of Henry Ford's Model T. Those first mass-produced vehicles didn't even include a battery or starting system, relying instead on a hand-cranked engine with a magneto to provide ignition. As recently as 20 years ago, many cars were still essentially mechanical systems supplemented by hydraulic or electrical systems for handling functions like steering, ignition, lights, and audio entertainment.

Posted in: Articles, Automotive, Infotainment systems, Product development, Technical review, Autonomous vehicles

Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing

Shaker tables developed for satellite testing will protect Webb telescope during launch.

Spinoff is NASA's annual publication featuring successfully commercialized NASA technology. This commercialization has contributed to the development of products and services in the fields of health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, public safety, computer technology, and environmental resources.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Automotive, Vibration, Performance tests, Test equipment and instrumentation

Scanning Performance of Air Bearing Equipped Precision Motion Systems

Scanning is a common technique in applications ranging from high-resolution microscopy to industrial material processing. Scanning involves moving either a workpiece or an optic at a constant velocity while a reading or writing operation takes place. Air bearings are used for both purposes, especially when high precision and reliability are vital. While the physical act of writing an image or capturing an image differ by application and industry, all such applications share a common requirement — maintaining a constant velocity.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Imaging and visualization, Automation, Bearings, Reliability

Four Ways to improve Production by Understanding the Physics of Servos

There is always a need to increase production in automation applications. Sometimes achieving improvements requires breaking the process down to its fundamental basics. The science behind the technology of servo-based motion control systems should be considered when attempting to eliminate inefficiencies. Four fundamentals to examine are inertia, resonance, vibration suppression, and regeneration.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Finite element analysis, Electronic control systems, Automation, Productivity

Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators

Hydraulics are rugged and deliver a low cost per unit of force, but electric rod actuators have attained higher force capacities while becoming more flexible, precise, and reliable.

Advances in motion control technology have prompted a new debate — do hydraulic cylinders or electric linear actuators offer the best solution for a linear motion application? Hydraulic cylinders provide high force at an affordable cost. Hydraulics are rugged, relatively simple to deploy, and deliver a low cost per unit of force. However, electric rod actuators (electric cylinders), particularly those with roller screws, have attained increasingly higher force capacities while becoming more flexible, precise, and reliable.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Electrical systems, Flight control actuators, Hydraulic control, Reliability

High-Power Fiber Lasers

New Applications Are Being Enabled by Dramatic Advances in Design and Performance

High-power (multi-kW) fiber lasers are revolutionizing industrial materials processing markets by offering an unmatched combination of performance, reliability, and cost advantages. For example, in sheet metal cutting (the largest application, with more than $1B/year of laser sales), fiber lasers provide the highest cutting speed (especially for thin sheets, the dominant application), scalability to thick sheets (>1”), and the ability to process a wide range of metals with a single tool. Along with low power consumption and high reliability, these capabilities result in the lowest cost per part. Fiber lasers have thus been the fastest-growing segment of the laser market for the past decade.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Fiber optics, Lasers, Cutting, Manufacturing equipment and machinery, Reliability

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