Special Coverage

NASA Supercomputer Simulations Reveal 'Noisy' Aerodynamics
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris
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

Contacts for Hi-Rel Connectors: Comparing Technologies

Contact design is critical to the performance of any connector — especially for devices that must function in harsh environments where extremes of temperature, shock, and vibration are to be encountered. Yet there are many different contact styles, and each supplier will claim an advantage. This article aims to set out clearly and concisely the merits and drawbacks of each of the main styles.

Posted in: Articles, Products, Fastening, Joining & Assembly, Mechanical Components, Finite element analysis, Connectors and terminals, Connectors and terminals, Durability, Reliability, Durability, Reliability

Mineral Analyzer Shakes Answers Out of Soil and Rocks

On the Curiosity rover, a tool called CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy) is helping scientists determine what minerals make up the Martian landscape, and whether single-celled or more complex organisms could once have thrived there. CheMin sends an X-ray beam through tiny samples of Martian soil or rock, recording how the beam scatters as it bounces against atomic planes of the different minerals contained within. The technique, called X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), has been around for a long time, but the tools commonly used were not practical for a robotic mission millions of miles from the nearest human hands.

Posted in: Spinoff, Articles, Robotics, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Soils, Robotics, Test equipment and instrumentation

Products of Tomorrow: November 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, Batteries, Energy Storage, Fluid Handling, Implants & Prosthetics, Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy, Robotics, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Air pollution, Medical equipment and supplies

Diffusion-Bonded CVC SiC for Large UVOIR Telescope Mirrors and Structures

In 2012, the National Research Council called for a new generation of astronomical telescopes to enable discovery of habitable planets, facilitate advances in solar physics, and enable the study of faint structures around bright objects by developing high-contrast imaging and spectroscopic technologies to provide unprecedented sensitivity, field of view, and spectroscopy of faint objects. Large-aperture, lightweight mirrors for UV, Optical and IR (UVOIR) telescopes answer this need. NASA requires low-cost, ultra-stable, large-aperture, normal incidence mirrors with low mass-to-collecting-area ratios. Potential UV/optical missions require 4- to 8- or 16- meter monolithic or segmented primary mirrors with active/passive alignment and control of normal-incidence imaging systems with <10 nm RMS surface figures.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mirrors, Architecture, Optics, Architecture, Optics

Device for and Method of Computer Intrusion Anticipation, Detection, and Remediation

Initially, relatively powerful computers were constructed as unique mainframes operated by larger corporations on isolated networks. Then, computers with modest amounts of computing power were made available to individuals as standalone personal computers. The computing power of personal computers and the applications for which they could be used were increased by networking them with other computers throughout the world using ancillary devices (e.g., servers, routers, links, switches, hubs, etc.). An arrangement into which computer and ancillary devices are configured is called a topology. There are many different types of topologies (e.g., bus, ring, star, tree, mesh, etc.).

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Wireless communication systems, Architecture, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Wireless communication systems

Crab Crawl Maneuver for Independently Steerable Wheeled Platforms

An industrial-class excavator was developed for use on the Moon and perhaps on Mars. The model mobility platform uses Ackerman Steering with active drives on all six wheels, and steering on the corners. A faulty sequence of wheel steering and driving commands resulted in undocumented behaviors in a simulation and rendering program that appear to have actual applicability to surface operations. Quite by accident, it was discovered that by applying power and steering to the wheels in a complex pattern, the excavator could move laterally, hard to starboard. The intended command was “reverse,” and the execution was a seemingly random turning and driving of all of the simulated six wheels. The faulty behavior was employed to remove the robotic platform when it was stuck on rocks, and enabled the platform to “scoot” side-ways, successfully disentangling from the rocks. The method drove the wheels in the direction of the intended motion, while steering them in a sweeping motion, and the apparent motion resembles swimming.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Electronic steering control, Finite element analysis, Product development, Construction vehicles and equipment, Spacecraft

Integrated Three-Dimensional Module Heat Exchanger for Power Electronics Cooling

Critical elements in the operation of electric drive systems are power electronics and power semiconductor packages. Improving thermal management of power electronics can help reduce the cost, weight, and volume of electric drive systems, and thus increase market acceptance. The power semiconductor packaging must provide the necessary electrical connections, while at the same time enabling heat removal from the semiconductor devices such as insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) and diodes.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Power electronics, Semiconductor devices, Power electronics, Semiconductor devices, Heat exchangers, Heat exchangers

Forging Graphene into Three-Dimensional Shapes

Graphene is a relative to graphite, which consists of millions of layers of graphene, and can be found in common pencil tips. Since graphene was isolated in 2004, researchers have learned to routinely produce and handle it. Graphene can be used to make electronic and optoelectronic devices such as transistors, photodetectors, and sensors.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Forming, Graphite, Materials identification

App Enables Smartphone Camera to Screen for Pancreatic Cancer

The five-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer is one of the worst — 9 percent — in part because there are no obvious symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to catch a tumor before it spreads. One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. The ability to detect signs of jaundice when bilirubin levels are minimally elevated — but before they're visible to the naked eye — could enable an entirely new screening program for at-risk individuals.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Diagnosis, Diseases

Continuous Diagnostic System Predicts Industrial Robot Faults

Robots in production lines work with micrometer precision, unless a component fails. If, for example, the linear actuator used to precisely position a car body in front of an assembly robot is damaged, the robotic arm will no longer be able to position the car door exactly. The result is a misaligned door.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Manufacturing equipment and machinery, Robotics, Reliability, Reliability

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