Special Coverage

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
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Interface Simplifies Remote Robot Operation

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers created a new interface to remotely control robots that is much simpler and more efficient than current techniques. The user simply points and clicks on an item, then chooses a grasp. The robot does the rest of the work.

The traditional interface for remotely operating robots employs a computer screen and mouse to independently control six degrees of freedom, turning three virtual rings and adjusting arrows to get the robot into position to grab items or perform a specific task. But for someone who isn’t an expert, the ring-and-arrow system is cumbersome and error-prone. It’s not ideal, for example, for older people trying to control assistive robots at home.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics, Software

Origami-Inspired Robot Can Ride with a Rover

The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) that’s in development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, was inspired by origami. It travels with a rover, and its lightweight design can flatten itself, tucking in its wheels and crawling into places rovers can’t fit.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Mechanical Metamaterials Can Block Symmetry of Motion

An artist’s rendering of mechanical metamaterials. (Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering)

Engineers and scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and the AMOLF institute in the Netherlands have invented mechanical metamaterials that transfer motion in one direction while blocking it in the other. The material can be thought of as a mechanical one-way shield that blocks energy from coming in but easily transmits it going out the other side. The researchers developed the mechanical materials using metamaterials, which are synthetic materials with properties that cannot be found in nature.

Posted in: News, Materials, Motion Control

Exo-Brake “Parachute” to Enable Safe Return for Small Spacecraft

Engineers pack the Technology Education Satellite with the Exo-Brake payload. Almost 4 square feet in cross section (0.35 square meters), the Exo-Brake is made of Mylar and is controlled by a hybrid system of mechanic struts and flexible cord. (Credit: NASA Ames/Dominic Hart)

Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA have been testing its Exo-Brake technology as a simple design that promises to help bring small payloads back through Earth’s atmosphere unharmed. An Exo-Brake is a tension-based, flexible braking device resembling a cross-parachute that deploys from the rear of a satellite to increase the drag. It is a de-orbit device that replaces the more complicated rocket-based systems that would normally be employed during the de-orbit phase of re-entry.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Motion Control

Six-Legged Robots Move Faster with Bipod Gate

Researchers have discovered a faster and more efficient gait, never observed in nature, for six-legged robots walking on flat ground. Bio-inspired gaits, which are less efficient for robots, are used by real insects because they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. (Credit: EPFL/Alain Herzog)

Researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland have determined that a bipod gait is the fastest and most efficient way for six-legged robots to move on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the nature-inspired tripod-gait paradigm.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Control Scheme Improves Motor Operation and Interaction

A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy, is working to improve how industrial electric drives operate. They propose a new control scheme that will not only improve motor operation, but also how the motor interacts with other systems.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Mathematical/Scientific Software, Simulation Software

Tool Helps Design Soft Robots That Can Bend and Twist

Designing a soft robot to move organically — to bend like a finger or twist like a wrist — has always been a process of trial and error. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a method to automatically design soft actuators based on the desired movement.

Posted in: News, Implants & Prosthetics, Motion Control, Robotics, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Software

Prototype Capture System Simulates Asteroid Mission

A prototype of the robotic capture module system is tested with a mock asteroid boulder in its clutches at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

A robotic capture module system prototype was built to help NASA engineers understand the operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface. The hardware includes three space frame legs with foot pads, and two seven-degrees-of-freedom arms with microspine gripper “hands” to grasp onto the boulder.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Dike Inspection Robot is Energy-Autonomous

The robot's drive train, including the dual-hemisphere system. (Image: University of Twente)

Inspecting the condition of dikes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dikes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission

System Harvests Energy from Automotive Shock Absorbers

The energy harvesting device focuses on the car’s suspension – specifically, the shock absorbers.

Boosting the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles by “harvesting” the energy generated by their shock absorbers and feeding it back into batteries or electrical systems such as air conditioning has become a major goal in automotive engineering. A University of Huddersfield (UK) researcher has designed a new system and built a prototype that is ready for real-world testing.

Posted in: News, Energy Harvesting, Motion Control

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