Motion Control

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

Briefs : Materials
New Piston Design Features Soft, Flexible Materials
New Piston Design Features Soft, Flexible Materials

Conventional pistons are made of a rigid chamber and a piston inside that can slide along the chamber’s inner wall while at the same time maintaining a tight seal. As a result, the piston...

New Piston Design Features Soft, Flexible Materials
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Sensor-Packed Glove Learns Signatures of the Human Grasp
Sensor-Packed Glove Learns Signatures of the Human Grasp

Wearing a sensor-packed glove while handling a variety of objects, researchers compiled a dataset that enables an AI system to recognize objects through touch alone. The information...

Sensor-Packed Glove Learns Signatures of the Human Grasp
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings
Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings

There is great potential in using both drones and ground-based robots for situations like disaster response, but generally these platforms either fly or creep along the ground. The flying...

Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Lunar Surface Manipulation System
Lunar Surface Manipulation System

NASA's Langley Research Center offers a novel lifting and precision positioning device with hybrid functional characteristics of both crane-type lifting devices and robotic manipulators. The design of the...

Lunar Surface Manipulation System
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Snake-Inspired Robot
Snake-Inspired Robot

Researchers have developed a new and improved snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more precise than its predecessor.

Snake-Inspired Robot
Motion Design : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Calculating the Estimated Fatigue Life of a Disc Spring
Calculating the Estimated Fatigue Life of a Disc Spring

In discussing fatigue life, it is important to distinguish between disc springs and conical spring washers, as they differ by design and intended usage. Conical spring washers are...

Calculating the Estimated Fatigue Life of a Disc Spring
Motion Design : Electronics & Computers
Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots
Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots

An ultra-low-power hybrid chip inspired by the brain could help give palm-sized robots the ability to collaborate and learn from their experiences. Combined with new generations of...

Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots
Motion Design : Imaging
Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation
Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation

A new learning system improves a robot’s ability to mold materials into target shapes and make predictions about interacting with solid objects and liquids. The system, known as a...

Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation
Briefs : Aerospace
Gear Bearings
Gear Bearings

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center developed gear bearing technology that combines gear and bearing functions into a single unit that significantly improves gear drives for electrical, internal combustion, and turbine motors. The...

Gear Bearings
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Smart, Soft, Back Orthosis Uses Real-Time Motion Detection

Back pain is inevitable with constrained posture over a number of hours. Permanent damage such as premature spine wear is not uncommon in people who do not adopt proper ergonomic posture. The same applies to those who frequently lift heavy objects.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Directed Flux Motor

Electromagnetic motors typically convert electrical energy into rotational mechanical energy and are employed across a wide array of applications. While motors represent relatively mature technology, practitioners continue to seek ways to enhance motor operation including a decrease in cost, drop in size/weight,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Double-Fed Induction Linear Alternator

This technology was developed to address the limitations of traditional, single-fed linear alternators that require permanent magnets, adhesive bonding organics, and heavy iron laminations for flux control. They experience eddy-current losses and require electromagnetic interference protection. Furthermore,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Rotary Electrical Contact
Rotary Electrical Contact

Researchers have developed a fundamentally new type of rotary electrical contact that addresses the two limitations of conventional brush/slip ring technology: 1) short operating lifetime due to sliding-contact...

Rotary Electrical Contact
Briefs : Motion Control
Transforming Flat Elastomers into 3D Shapes
Transforming Flat Elastomers into 3D Shapes

Mechanical systems such as engines and motors rely on two principal types of motions of stiff components: linear motion, which involves an object moving from one point to another in a straight...

Transforming Flat Elastomers into 3D Shapes
Briefs : Materials
Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator
Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator

Fast-response, stiffness-tunable (FRST) soft actuators — or movable machine elements — were developed that could be used in soft robots.

Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings
Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings

Researchers, drawing inspiration from bacteria, have designed smart, bio-compatible microrobots that are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape...

Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Self-Lubrication Improves Standard Braking Systems
Self-Lubrication Improves Standard Braking Systems

By mixing carbon fibers into polymer-based brakes, researchers designed brakes that are self-lubricating. These new and improved brakes can prevent wear-and-tear and have better frictional...

Self-Lubrication Improves Standard Braking Systems
Briefs : Propulsion
Directly Cooled Electric Motor Made from Polymer Materials
Directly Cooled Electric Motor Made from Polymer Materials

Making electric cars lighter also involves reducing the weight of the motor. One way to do that is by constructing it from fiber-reinforced polymer materials. A new cooling concept...

Directly Cooled Electric Motor Made from Polymer Materials
Briefs : Propulsion
Achieving Carbon Footprint Reduction with Flywheel Technology
Achieving Carbon Footprint Reduction with Flywheel Technology

Recent technical advances have enabled flywheel energy storage systems (FESS) to become more compact and able to support higher-power applications. Due to their proven...

Achieving Carbon Footprint Reduction with Flywheel Technology
Briefs : Motion Control
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have developed a method for controlling precise motion of a brushless DC (BLDC) motor using relatively inexpensive components. Precision motors are usually quite expensive and inefficient when operating at slow speeds. Current motors are only capable of operating at...

Briefs : Motion Control
Computer-Controlled Exercise Equipment

While a wide variety of computer-controlled exercise machines for training and rehabilitation exist — some of which can be automatically adjusted to vary resistance or incline — such systems provide for preprogrammed changes in load or resistance. What is needed is a system that overcomes the...

Briefs : Motion Control
Speedy Motor Modeling
Speedy Motor Modeling

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have created open source software that scales up analysis of motor designs to run on the fastest computers available.

Speedy Motor Modeling
INSIDER : Robotics, Automation & Control
Walking Robot Moves Without GPS
Walking Robot Moves Without GPS

Ants are able to use polarized light and ultraviolet radiation to locate themselves in space. AntBot mimics this ability to explore its environment randomly and go home automatically, without GPS or...

Walking Robot Moves Without GPS
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets
Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets

Researchers have created a two-dimensional, shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The integrated system utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid...

Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces
Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces

Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take more than a month per engine. Many components are located deep...

Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces
Briefs : Software
Foot Pedal Controller
Foot Pedal Controller

A novel foot-pedal-operated system and device were developed to control translational and rotational movement of an object in three-dimensional (3D) space. The Foot Pedal Controller system enables operators to control...

Foot Pedal Controller
Briefs : Motion Control
Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes
Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes

Hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes without an underlying master plan, purely based on local communication and movement. To achieve this, the biological...

Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Artificial Joint Restores Wrist-Like Movements
Artificial Joint Restores Wrist-Like Movements

For patients missing a hand, one of the biggest challenges to regaining a high level of function is the inability to rotate one's wrist (pronate and supinate). These are essential movements...

Artificial Joint Restores Wrist-Like Movements
Briefs : Energy
Ricocheting Radio Waves Monitor the Tiniest Movements
Ricocheting Radio Waves Monitor the Tiniest Movements

Infrared motion detectors can cover only a limited amount of space, a person has to be within the detector's line of sight to be detected, and lights can go off when a person remains...

Ricocheting Radio Waves Monitor the Tiniest Movements
Briefs : Motion Control
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures

Soft, 3D-printed structures have been created whose movements can be controlled with a wave of a magnet, much like marionettes without the strings. The structures that can be magnetically manipulated...

Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures