Special Coverage

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
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

Learning to Crawl: Origami Robot Moves Like an Earthworm

A new mechanical innovation unfolded this month at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a team of engineers built a new kind of crawler robot. The wheel-less design takes inspiration from two unconventional sources: origami and the earthworm.

Posted in: News, Materials, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Robotics

Harmonic Air Motor Offers Very High Efficiency

Currently available air motors have many advantages over electric motors. They are more compact, lighter-weight, instantly reversible without sparking, create no heat buildup, are undamaged by stalling or overloading, and supply extremely broad torque and speed range. Generally available commercial air motors, however, have only 5% to 20% of ideal efficiency.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Motors & Drives

Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris

Currently there are about 500,000 pieces of human-made debris in space, orbiting our planet at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour. This debris poses a threat to satellites, space vehicles, and astronauts aboard those vehicles. However, cleaning up the debris is problematic. For example, suction cups don’t work in a vacuum, and traditional sticky substances like tape are largely useless because the chemicals they rely on can’t withstand extreme temperature swings.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Wireless Magnetic Field Powers Folding Robots

A team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has created battery-free folding robots that are capable of complex, repeatable movements powered and controlled through a wireless magnetic field. The system requires only basic, passive electronic components on the robot to deliver an electric current, and the structure of the robot itself takes care of the rest.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Electromagnetic Actuator Decouples Linear and Rotary Motions

A lightweight module for rapid, accurate, and versatile positioning of semiconductor chips features a novel electromechanical actuator that can move objects both linearly and rotationally. The technology was developed by researchers at the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (A*STAR SIMTech) and National University of Singapore (SIMTech-NUS) Joint Lab.

Posted in: News, Industrial Controls & Automation, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Positioning Equipment

Soft “Vinebot” Excels at Search and Rescue

Inspired by natural organisms like vines that cover distance by growing, researchers at Stanford University have created a soft, tubular robot that lengthens to explore hard-to-reach areas. The vine-like robot can grow across long distances without moving its whole body, which could prove useful in search-and-rescue operations and medical applications.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

3D Printed Tensegrity Object Can Change Shape

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of shape change. The objects use tensegrity, a structural system of floating rods in compression and cables in continuous tension. The researchers fabricated the struts from shape memory polymers that unfold when heated. The technology could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mechanical Components, Motion Control

Self-Learning Robot Hands Adapt to Grasp Objects

A new grasp system with robotic hands works without previously knowing the characteristics of objects. The system, which learns by trial and error, was developed by researchers at Bielefeld University in Bielefeld, Germany. It features two hands that are based on human hands in terms of both shape and mobility. The robot brain for the hands must learn how everyday objects like pieces of fruit or tools can be distinguished based on their color or shape, as well as what matters when attempting to grasp the object; for example, a banana can be held, and a button can be pressed. The system learns to recognize such possibilities as characteristics, and constructs a model for interacting with and re-identifying the object.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Positioning Equipment, Automation, Robotics

Crawling Robot is Powered by Moisture

Using an off-the-shelf camera flash, researchers at Jilin University, China, turned an ordinary sheet of graphene oxide into a material that bends when exposed to moisture. They then used this material to make a spider-like crawler and claw robot that move in response to changing humidity, without the need for any external power.

Posted in: News, Materials, Motion Control, Robotics

Modular Climbing Robot Splits into Multiple Explorer Bots

Researchers from the Robotics Research Centre at the International Institute of Technology – Hyderabad (IIIT-H), have developed a stair and obstacle climbing robot that can disassemble itself into smaller robots, and then reassemble back into one device. As a composite system, the Detachable Compliant Modular Robot (DCMR) can climb steep obstacles and staircases, and explore uneven terrain. When it detaches into multiple robots, it can explore cramped spaces, traverse flat terrain, and behave as a Multi Agent System (MAS).

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

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