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

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, 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 and hardware, Hydraulic and pneumatic hybrid power, Productivity, Hydraulic control


Chances are that most of us have used a printed electronic device, whether it's a security tag on a piece of clothing, or a plastic badge used to open the door of our workplace. Printable electronics have diverse potential applications in flexible solar cells, batteries, sensors, lighting products, medical diagnostic devices, drug delivery devices, smart packaging and clothing, and displays. Following are several innovative applications incorporating printable electronics.

Low-Cost Printable Electronics Fabrication

The need for low-cost and environmentally friendly processes for fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips is rapidly growing. NASA has developed a unique approach for an atmospheric pressure plasma-based process for fabricating printable electronics and functional coatings. This system involves aerosol-assisted, room-temperature printing in which an aerosol carrying the desired material for deposition is introduced into a cold plasma jet operated at atmospheric pressure.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Electronic equipment, Sensors and actuators, Additive manufacturing, Magnetic materials, Nanomaterials

Laser Vision Helps Package Shippers See Clearly

An analyzer developed for Hubble mirror testing helps FedEx scan packages.

For more than 25 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided stunning photos of the universe unequalled in their depth, detail, and distinction. But in its early days, Hubble wasn't capable of sending back such breathtaking photos. Within weeks of launch, the images beamed back to Earth were fuzzy and out of focus. It was determined that Hubble's primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape and was too flat by 2.2 micrometers, causing reflected light from the edge of the mirror to be focused on a different point than light coming from near the center. It was determined that the device used to create the nonspherical mirror had been incorrectly assembled, and the mirror's manufacturer had failed to notice the problem before Hubble was launched.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Lasers, Optics, Logistics

The Basics of Encoder Selection

Positioning: Resolution and Accuracy

An application’s required positioning resolution dictates the choice of encoder resolution. A well-tuned system can maintain the position within one encoder state (quadcount). Therefore, the encoder resolution in quadcounts (states) should at least correspond to the maximum permissible positioning error. Depending on the response time of the system, a higher encoder resolution should be chosen for the controller to detect deviations faster and counteract quicker.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Calibration, Navigation and guidance systems, Reliability

New Horizons for Aviation Technology

Thanks to advancements developed by NASA, today’s aviation industry is better equipped than ever to safely and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations. In fact, every U.S. aircraft and air traffic control tower uses NASA-developed technology. Streamlined aircraft bodies, quieter jet engines, drag-reducing winglets, and lightweight composite structures are an everyday part of flying thanks to NASA research that traces its origins back to the earliest days of aviation. But NASA isn’t finished. Here are some new technologies that could change the airline industry of the future.

Posted in: Articles, Aviation, Aircraft structures, Avionics, Aircraft operations, Product development, Technical review, Air traffic control

40 Years of Safer Aviation Through Reporting

The U.S. has an incredibly safe aviation system, partly because safety concerns are identified and corrected before they become real problems. NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is one of the tools used to make the system safe.

Posted in: Articles, Aviation, Data management, Historical reference, Risk management, Safety regulations and standards

Spinoff: Wireless Platform Integrates Sensors with Smartphones

The platform, developed using NASA nanotechnology, paved the way for interchangeable smartphone sensors.

In 2007, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a call for a sensor that could equip a smartphone with the ability to detect dangerous gases and chemicals, Ames Research Center scientist Jing Li had a ready response. Four years earlier, she led a team that wrote a paper on the use of carbon nanotube sensors for gas and organic vapor detection.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Nanotechnology, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Chemicals, Gases, Nanotechnology

Software Models Electromagnetics of Wireless Power Transfer

Imagine coming home and dropping your phone, laptop, and Bluetooth® headset on your kitchen table so that they all recharge simultaneously. What if you could drive your electric car into a garage, park above a mat, and know it will be charged in the morning? What if there was a new medical implant to replace the one you wear — and the new version does not include power cords or the need to replace batteries?

Posted in: Articles, Electronics & Computers, Simulation Software, Software, Charging stations, Computer software and hardware, Electromagnetic compatibility, Wireless communication systems, Magnetic materials

Improving Weapons with Simulation

As engineers design new weapons or modify existing ones, reducing time and money on development can be critical in providing soldiers with improved weapons without undue delay. A new sight may be planned for the M4 rifle, but how well does a prototype design work, and where would be the best place to mount it for the best accuracy and ease of use? Or new, nonlethal weapons may be needed, but will they perform as expected at different ranges?

Posted in: Articles, Simulation Software, Computer simulation, Defense industry

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