The square structural joint design enables robotic assembly and has been designed for high strength to weight, multifunctionality, and reduced manufacturing cost. The joint provides increased axial stiffness compared to round tubes of the same width but torsional and bending strength are increased as well. Electrical conductivity and provisions for routing of wiring or tubing through the joints have been incorporated, enabling greater capability and a stronger structural design.

Switching to square cross-section joints provides packaging efficiency along with numerous improvements for robotic assembly applications such as providing rotational registration, robotically compatible tool designs, both mechanical and visual indicators to verify locking operation, preload, and capture spring forces with a unique stop plate in the drive train that can be designed to default to the assembled condition without a preload, yet spring back if forced toward unlocked. After assembly, preload can be adjusted for security. Designed for robust assembly, the robotic tools are built to actuate the joint.

Structural benefits include nearly complete perimeter contact geometry for improved structural efficiency, improved cantilever beam response via linear bending response about the y and z axes, and linear torsional response about the x axis. Additionally, there is better linear axial response along the x axis due to simple geometry and large contact surfaces, higher torsional/torque capability (about the x axis), higher bending capability about all axes, higher axial capability, and is more cost effective to manufacture. It also offers a bonding strap and treated contact surfaces that provide electrical conductivity through the joint.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or call us at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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