Motion Control/​Automation

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on motion control and automation, from engineering experts at NASA and major government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Optical Gyroscope-on-a-Chip

Gyroscopes are devices that help vehicles, drones, and wearable and handheld electronic devices know their orientation in three-dimensional space. Originally, gyroscopes were sets of nested wheels, each spinning...

Briefs : Medical
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss

The global bearings market is expected to grow significantly due to increasing commercial and industrial machinery and manufacturing activity. Bearings are used in virtually...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
A Biologically Inspired Method of Improving Systems and Survivability Through Self-Sacrifice

In human beings, the self-destruction behavior of human body cells is considered as an intrinsic safety mechanism of the human body. It seems that the lifetime of a cell is programmed, and that cells know when to commit suicide. This self-destruction is...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration

Robots that are adapted to respond to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) traditionally treat such interactions as disturbances, and resume their original behaviors when the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment

Colloids — insoluble particles or molecules anywhere from a billionth to a millionth of a meter across — are so small they can stay suspended indefinitely in a liquid or even in air. Robots about...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously

A technique was developed to quickly teach robots novel traversal behaviors with minimal human oversight. The technique allows mobile robot platforms to navigate autonomously in...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

When heated, popcorn can expand more than 10 times in size, change its viscosity by a factor of 10, and transition from regular to highly irregular granules with surprising force. These unique qualities can...

Briefs : Motion Control
Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks

Given the exact parameters of the task at hand, a robot can assemble a car door or pack a box faster and more efficiently than a human, but such purpose-built machines are not...

Briefs : Materials
Compact, High-Resolution Rotary Position Sensor

It is often desirable to sense the angular position of a rotating part. Numerous kinds of rotation sensors have been developed over the years; one type is a capacitive sensor, where a...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue

A process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue lays the foundation for soft active matter with highly...

Briefs : Aerospace
Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact

Origami manufacturing has led to considerable advances in the field of foldable structures with innovative applications in robotics, aerospace, and metamaterials; however, existing origami are either...

Briefs : Materials
Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots

Wearable technologies are exploding in popularity in both the consumer and research spaces, but most of the electronic sensors that detect and transmit data from wearables are made of hard,...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots

The Army uses robots that are structurally rigid, making them impractical when performing military operations in highly congested and contested urban environments where covert maneuvering is critical...

Briefs : Medical
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch

Stanford and Seoul National University researchers have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics

The unique capabilities of soft robots are to bend, deform, stretch, twist, or squeeze in all the ways that conventional rigid robots cannot. Today, it is easy to envision a world in...

Briefs : Motion Control
Ultra-Thin Capacitive Sensor Has the Least Possible Resistance to Motion

A thin and flexible sensor was developed for sensing sounds, since it can move with the airflow made by even the softest noises. With the least possible resistance to motion, the sensor addresses issues with accelerometers, microphones, and many other similar sensors. The...

Briefs : Materials
Variable-Camber Compliant Wing

In the early years of manned flight, wing warping was used for lateral control of an aircraft. This technique consisted of a system of pulleys and cables used to twist the trailing edges of the wings in...

Briefs : Motion Control
Using Direct Current with Inverter Technology in Resistance Welding

Resistance welding with direct current (DC) using inverter technology reduces costs by improving quality, reducing maintenance, and increasing productivity. Switching from...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot

Today's crop breeders are trying to boost yields while preparing plants to withstand severe weather and changing climates. To succeed, they must locate the genes for high-yielding, hardy traits in crop...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Hydraulic-Based Spherical Robot

Current spherical robots rely upon rotating mechanical weights inside the sphere to change the center of gravity of the sphere, causing the robot to roll. The use of rotating mechanical weights is not optimal due to the reliance upon moving parts, which can present burdensome maintenance issues. It would be...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Integrated Inverter for Controlling Multiple Electric Machines

There are applications that require multiple electric machine drives, such as electric or hybrid electric vehicles, where there is a main traction motor and one or more accessory...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots

Liquid metal printing is integral to the flexible electronics field. Additive manufacturing enables fast fabrication of intricate designs and circuitry. The field features...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Positional Sensor Measures Rotational and Lateral Displacements

Positional sensors have applications where a very accurate measurement of position is needed over a limited range. One example of such an application is in manipulation of a...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Active Response Gravity Offload System

NASA has used two systems to train astronauts for weightlessness. The first is the Reduced Gravity Simulator that suspended the astronaut at an angle of 80.5 so that only 1/6th of his or her weight was supported by the ground, while the rest was supported by a pulley system. The other system, designed...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System

Recent findings indicate that frequent, short-term crew exposure to elevated CO2 levels, combined with other physiological impacts of microgravity, may lead to a...

Briefs : Materials
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater

An eel-like robot was developed that can swim silently in salt water without an electric motor. Instead, the robot uses artificial muscles filled with water to propel itself. The...

Briefs : Transportation
Sensor-Free Smart Wheel

Technology was developed that not only allows wheels to “know” when and how to rotate, but also enables them to work together in interactive teams. The new technology can be used wherever there is a need for...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
“Intelligent” Rotor Blades React Quickly to Changing Conditions

The giant rotor blades are one central part of a wind turbine. Researchers developed a rotor blade that makes more efficient use of large fluctuations in wind strength using...

Briefs : Motion Control
VTOL UAV with the Cruise Efficiency of a Conventional Fixed-Wing UAV

NASA Langley Research Center has developed Greased Lightning, the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that combines vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability with...

Briefs : Aerospace
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight

Actuators are used in a wide variety of electromechanical systems and in robotics, in applications such as steerable catheters, aircraft wings that adapt to changing conditions, and wind...