Special Coverage

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
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain

Traditional robots often feature isolated mechanical joints. These discrete components limit a rover’s ability to traverse sand, stone, and other challenging environments. A team at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated a more flexible option: a soft robot that lifts its legs over obstacles and operates on a variety of terrains. The 3D-printed quadrupedal technology may someday support search-and-rescue missions requiring intelligent navigation capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Terrain, Kinematics, Additive manufacturing, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles

High-Temperature Actuators Bend as They “Breathe”

The mechanical components are made from films that expand and contract as they let oxygen in and out.

Extreme temperatures are hard for mechanical components to endure without degrading. To address the problem, researchers at MIT worked with several other universities to develop a new way to make actuators that could be used in exceptionally hot environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Heat resistant materials, Materials properties, Test equipment and instrumentation

3D-Printed Tensegrity Object Can Change Shape

The technology creates a large, lightweight, strong object that can be flattened and then expanded to its full size when heated.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of dramatic expansion. The technology could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices. The new 3D-printed 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.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Additive manufacturing, Fabrication, Materials properties, Polymers, Smart materials

Flat, Triangular Modules Connect to Form Origami Robot

Using two genderless mechanisms, module sides are connected and folded to create reconfigurable 3D structures.

Origami robots are composed of thin structures that can fold and unfold to change shape. They are compact and lightweight, but have functional restrictions related to size, shape, and how many folds can be created. On the other hand, modular robots use large numbers of individual entities to reconfigure the overall shape and address diverse tasks. These robots are more flexible when it comes to shape and configuration, but they are generally bulky and complex.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Robotics, Lightweight materials, Materials properties

Straws Help Create Simple Robot Joints

Plastic drinking straws and inflatable tubing are used to build machines that walk like insects.

Inspired by arthropod insects and spiders, Harvard professor George Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski, a former postdoctoral fellow in Whitesides’ Harvard lab, used ordinary plastic drinking straws to create a type of semi-soft robot capable of standing and walking. The team also created a robotic water strider capable of pushing itself along the liquid surface.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Design processes, Robotics, Materials properties, Plastics

Autonomous Combustion-Powered Hopping Robot

Applications include military assistance, law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security.

Robots are conventionally made mobile by rolling on wheels; however, wheeled robots have limited ability to traverse large obstacles. Obstacles much taller than the robot's wheels can prevent passage, and obstacles with significant horizontal gaps, such as trenches, can also prevent passage. One solution is to use bigger wheels and a bigger wheelbase. Both of these require more drive power, so the entire robot must be larger. This can be prohibitive in applications with cost, size, space, or transportation constraints that limit the size of robot that can be used.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles, Vehicle dynamics

Omnidirectional Mobile Robot with Two Moving Parts

A spherical induction motor (SIM) eliminates the robot's mechanical drive system.

SIMbot is an updated version of the ballbot, an elegantly simple robot whose tall, thin body moves on top of a sphere slightly smaller than a bowling ball. SIMbot features a motor with just one moving part: the ball. The other active moving part of the robot is the body itself.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Performance upgrades, Robotics, Bearings

Interactive Robot Control System and Method of Use

Robonaut 2 can enter hazardous areas or tackle difficult terrain without endangering its human operator.

Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple systems and sub-components: vision systems, image-recognition systems, sensors, control algorithms, and much more. R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries. One of the most promising applications for the R2 technologies is in the area of hazardous environments. R2 has the capability to work in remote locations separate from the human controller. R2 can function autonomously, or it can be controlled by direct teleoperations.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Artificial intelligence, Artificial intelligence, Human machine interface (HMI), Collaboration and partnering, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles

Integrated High-Speed Torque Control System for a Robotic Joint

This highly dexterous humanoid robot is designed to handle complex and delicate operations.

Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries, including logistics and distribution. Even though R2 is currently designed with only a mobile upper body, R2's ability to accomplish complex and delicate operations provides a higher level of sophistication not currently seen in the existing robotics field for logistics and distribution. In terms of handling inventory, R2's dexterity would allow it to handle a multitude of items, including delicate ones. R2 can safely work in close proximity to humans, making the robot suitable to work in complex environments such as distribution centers. R2 has the ability to operate equipment and machines designed for humans, like handheld power tools or inventory-scanning equipment. R2's design enables many useful applications in logistics and distribution.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Electronic control systems, Electronic control systems, Robotics, Universal joints, Industrial vehicles and equipment

Developing a Satellite-Based Autonomous Vehicle Control System

This system incorporates a satellite system, multiple sensors, and vehicle control system.

The rapid rise of global interest in the field of autonomous driving is ushering in a new era of automobiles. With many vehicles already offering autonomous preventative safety systems, the addition of improved road infrastructure could increase the reliability and maturity of autonomous driving functions, ultimately increasing the driver's sense of safety.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Vehicle networking, Vehicle networking, Smart grid, Autonomous vehicles, Satellites

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