Tech Briefs

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: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Self-Contained Wheel Unit
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Latest Tech Briefs

Briefs : Imaging
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller
The technology can be used in commercial motors, robotic systems, and hybrid and electric vehicles.
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Algorithm Gives Robots a Faster Grasp
Algorithm Gives Robots a Faster Grasp
The algorithm speeds up the planning process that robots use to adjust their grip on objects.
Algorithm Gives Robots a Faster Grasp
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Artificial Skin Provides Haptic Feedback
Artificial Skin Provides Haptic Feedback
The skin could help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality by instantaneously adapting to a wearer's movements.
Artificial Skin Provides Haptic Feedback
Briefs : Motion Control
Motion-Powered, Fireproof Sensor
Motion-Powered, Fireproof Sensor

Researchers have created a motion-powered, fireproof sensor that can track the movements of firefighters, steelworkers, miners, and others who work in high-risk environments where they cannot always be seen....

Motion-Powered, Fireproof Sensor
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Soft Robotics Perception System
Soft Robotics Perception System

A perception system for soft robots was developed that is inspired by the way humans process information about their own bodies in space and in relation to other objects and people. The system includes a...

Soft Robotics Perception System
Briefs : Motion Control
Wearable Motion Sensors Measure Fetal Heartbeat

A technique was developed that could allow expectant parents to hear their baby’s heartbeat continuously at home with a non-invasive and safe device that is potentially more accurate than any fetal heartrate monitor currently available in the market.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robots Can Pick Up Any Object After Inspecting It
Robots Can Pick Up Any Object After Inspecting It

For decades, robots in controlled environments like assembly lines have been able to pick up the same object over and over again. More recently, breakthroughs in computer vision have enabled...

Robots Can Pick Up Any Object After Inspecting It
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Method Enables Robots to Exchange Directed Messages
Method Enables Robots to Exchange Directed Messages

A novel approach was developed to improve communications range and allow for covert behavior using a team of robots for future multi-domain operations. Specifically, researchers...

Method Enables Robots to Exchange Directed Messages
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Flying Robot Mimics Rapid Insect Flight
Flying Robot Mimics Rapid Insect Flight

Flying animals both power and control flight by flapping their wings. This enables small natural flyers such as insects to hover close to a flower but also to rapidly escape danger. Animal flight has...

Flying Robot Mimics Rapid Insect Flight
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robots Track Moving Objects with Sub-Centimeter Accuracy
Robots Track Moving Objects with Sub-Centimeter Accuracy

A system was developed that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to help robots target moving objects with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The system could enable greater...

Robots Track Moving Objects with Sub-Centimeter Accuracy
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Toughening Stretchable Fibers Using a Metallic Core
Toughening Stretchable Fibers Using a Metallic Core

Researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material. The fibers consist of a gallium metal core...

Toughening Stretchable Fibers Using a Metallic Core
Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Smart Electronic Skin for Robots and Prosthetics

Humans use the sense of touch to accomplish almost every daily task such as picking up a cup of coffee or shaking someone’s hand. Without it, humans can even lose their sense of balance when walking. Similarly, robots need to have a sense of touch in order to interact better with humans but...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Simulating Softness for Haptic Interfaces
Simulating Softness for Haptic Interfaces

Researchers have developed a formula that enables them to recreate different levels of perceived softness. Based on the results from their experiments, they created equations that can calculate how...

Simulating Softness for Haptic Interfaces
Briefs : Imaging
Optical Neural Network Could Lead to Intelligent Cameras
Optical Neural Network Could Lead to Intelligent Cameras

UCLA engineers have made major improvements on their design of an optical neural network — a device inspired by how the human brain works — that can identify objects or process...

Optical Neural Network Could Lead to Intelligent Cameras
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Tiny “Walking” Motor Moves in Discrete Mechanical Steps
Tiny “Walking” Motor Moves in Discrete Mechanical Steps

A set of five tiny fundamental parts can be assembled into a wide variety of functional devices including a tiny “walking” motor that can move back and forth across a surface or...

Tiny “Walking” Motor Moves in Discrete Mechanical Steps
Briefs : Materials
High-Speed 3D Printer for High-Performance Plastics
High-Speed 3D Printer for High-Performance Plastics

3D printers that build small parts layer by layer from melted plastic can take up to an hour to produce a pocket-sized piece. This process is far too slow for the mass-production of...

High-Speed 3D Printer for High-Performance Plastics
Briefs : AR/AI
Neural Lander Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly

Landing multi-rotor drones smoothly is difficult. Complex turbulence is created by the airflow from each rotor bouncing off the ground during a descent. This turbulence is not well understood nor is it easy to compensate for, particularly for autonomous drones. That is why takeoff and landing are...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Smartphone App Programs Robots
Smartphone App Programs Robots

A smartphone app was developed that allows a user to easily program any robot to perform a mundane activity such as picking up parts from one area and delivering them to another. The app, called VRa, uses...

Smartphone App Programs Robots
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
High-Sensitivity, Low-Noise MEMS Accelerometer
High-Sensitivity, Low-Noise MEMS Accelerometer

A high-sensitivity and low-noise MEMS accelerometer was developed using multi-layer metal structures composed of multiple metal layers. The accelerometer achieves 1 μG level resolution that has...

High-Sensitivity, Low-Noise MEMS Accelerometer
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Miniature Stretchable Pump
Miniature Stretchable Pump

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over rigid robots: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects, and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber, or other stretchable polymers,...

Miniature Stretchable Pump
Briefs : Nanotechnology
Automated System Generates Robotic Parts
Automated System Generates Robotic Parts

An automated system designs and 3D-prints complex robotic parts that are optimized according to an enormous number of specifications. The system fabricates actuators — devices that mechanically...

Automated System Generates Robotic Parts
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Liquid Lab-on-a-Chip
3D-Printed Liquid Lab-on-a-Chip

Researchers have 3D-printed an all-liquid device that, with the click of a button, can be repeatedly reconfigured on demand to serve a wide range of applications from making battery materials to screening drug...

3D-Printed Liquid Lab-on-a-Chip
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Lightweight Exosuit Combines Robotics and Functional Apparel
Lightweight Exosuit Combines Robotics and Functional Apparel

Between walking and running, human gaits can cover a wide range of speeds; for example, at low speeds, the metabolic rate of walking is lower than that of running in a slow jog....

Lightweight Exosuit Combines Robotics and Functional Apparel
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
New Airplane Wing Assembled from Tiny Identical Pieces
New Airplane Wing Assembled from Tiny Identical Pieces

A radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces, can change shape to control the plane’s flight, and could provide a significant boost in...

New Airplane Wing Assembled from Tiny Identical Pieces
Briefs : RF & Microwave Electronics
Technique Locates Robots and Humans in GPS-Challenged Environments

An algorithm enables localization of humans and robots in areas where GPS is unavailable. The Army needs to be able to localize agents operating in physically complex, unknown, and infrastructure-poor environments. This capability is critical to help find dismounted soldiers and...

Briefs : Motion Control
Antenna Near-Field Probe Station Scanner

Antenna characterization techniques are often expensive and time-consuming. NASA’s Glenn Research Center developed a highly versatile and automated system to perform characterization of single or multiple small circuit antennas, printed on-wafer or on other substrates, by measuring the antenna’s...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Software Enables Robots to Self-Right After Overturning
Software Enables Robots to Self-Right After Overturning

The Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) features a modular open systems architecture that enables the robot to be self-righting after a fall. The self-righting...

Software Enables Robots to Self-Right After Overturning