Motion Control/​Automation

Explore the latest developments in motion control and automation. Discover innovative advances from NASA and major research labs in robotics, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, PID controller applications, motor drives and power transmissions.

White Papers : Motion Control
Application Note: Extreme Customization, Well-maintained Tooling, and Accuracy

Take a look behind the scenes at how Nippon Pulse America Inc. re-designed one of its standard linear stepper motors to replace a competitor motor that was no longer meeting customer resolution or accuracy requirements. This application note showcases major...

Articles : Motion Control
Benefits of Using Encoders to Improve Step Motor System Performance
Benefits of Using Encoders to Improve Step Motor System Performance

Step motors are widely used in automation due to their high resolution, precision positioning, minimal control electronics, and low cost. As an open loop system, traditional...

Benefits of Using Encoders to Improve Step Motor System Performance
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
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...

Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
Briefs : Automotive
Sensor-Free Smart Wheel
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...

Sensor-Free Smart Wheel
Application Briefs : Imaging
Guiding the Way in Automotive Plants
Guiding the Way in Automotive Plants

Vision-guided robotics commonly used in today's automotive plants enables robots to “see” the object they are working on so they can perform the required activity accurately on/to an object that is...

Guiding the Way in Automotive Plants
Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Plastic Bearings Reduce Weight and Improve Durability
Plastic Bearings Reduce Weight and Improve Durability

When engineer Mark Doyle started to put together plans for an exoskeleton to support surgeons in 2012, he wanted to develop a lightweight product that they could wear comfortably for...

Plastic Bearings Reduce Weight and Improve Durability
Articles : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Sensing the Future of Pneumatics
Sensing the Future of Pneumatics

Some species of sharks must constantly swim to keep water flowing over their gills to stay alive. That same concept also tends to apply to technology — once a technology stops evolving and moving forward,...

Sensing the Future of Pneumatics
Products : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
New Products: June 2018 Motion Design
New Products: June 2018 Motion Design

Rotary Position Sensors

Novotechnik, U.S. (Southborough, MA) announced industrial and redundant channel industrial versions of the SP 2800 Series rotary position sensors. The industrial version...

New Products: June 2018 Motion Design
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
“Intelligent” Rotor Blades React Quickly to Changing Conditions
“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...

“Intelligent” Rotor Blades React Quickly to Changing Conditions
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
VTOL UAV with the Cruise Efficiency of a Conventional Fixed-Wing UAV
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...

VTOL UAV with the Cruise Efficiency of a Conventional Fixed-Wing UAV
Briefs : Nanotechnology
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
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...

Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
Podcasts : Robotics, Automation & Control
Here's an Idea: Listen to the Story of Humanoid Robots
Here's an Idea: Listen to the Story of Humanoid Robots

Some conditions are too dangerous, or just too mundane, for people.

Here's an Idea: Listen to the Story of Humanoid Robots
Briefs : Materials
Piezomagnetic Material Changes Magnetic Properties When Stretched
Piezomagnetic Material Changes Magnetic Properties When Stretched

Piezoelectric materials, which generate an electric current when compressed or stretched, are familiar and widely used; for example, lighters that spark when a switch is...

Piezomagnetic Material Changes Magnetic Properties When Stretched
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Polymer-Based 2D-to-3D Transformable Surfaces

Technologies using stretchable materials are increasingly important. Yet, in general, it is not possible to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons. A method was developed that allows the calculated transformation of 2D stretchable surfaces into targeted 3D...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators

Soft robots inspired by nature can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects, and even assist a beating heart, but none of them has been able to sense and respond to the...

Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
The Less is More Approach to Robotic Cable Management
The Less is More Approach to Robotic Cable Management

In recent years, cable management has come into the limelight because machine reliability has increased dramatically, even though robots have grown more complex. Unfortunately, the...

The Less is More Approach to Robotic Cable Management
Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Understanding Smart Machines: How They Will Shape the Future
Understanding Smart Machines: How They Will Shape the Future

Powered by smart machines, the new industrial revolution is changing how machine builders design, and how manufacturers operate today and in the future. To remain competitive and...

Understanding Smart Machines: How They Will Shape the Future
Briefs : Materials
3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel
3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel

A “4D printing” method was developed for a smart gel that could lead to the development of living structures in human organs and tissues, soft robots, and targeted drug delivery.

3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel
News : Medical
Answering Your Questions: Are Assistive Robotics Safe for Patients?
Answering Your Questions: Are Assistive Robotics Safe for Patients?
Robotics are increasingly find a role in patient rehabilitation. But are the technologies safe?
Answering Your Questions: Are Assistive Robotics Safe for Patients?
Question of the Week : Propulsion
Will 'jet-powered' feet support search-and-rescue applications?

Tech Briefs TV this week featured research from the Guangdong University of Technology in China: A team of engineers developed a ducted-fan propulsion system that drives the legs of a bipedal robot. Watch the video, and let us know what you think.

Products : Motion Control
New Products: April 2018 Motion Design
New Products: April 2018 Motion Design

Mounted Ball Bearings

SKF (Lansdale, PA) launched mounted ball bearing units with industry-standard inch series cast iron housings in several designs, inch or metric insert bearings, and...

New Products: April 2018 Motion Design
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Control for Molecular Machines
Control for Molecular Machines

Scientists around the world are working on new technologies for the nanofactories of the future, which one day could be used to analyze biochemical samples or produce active medical agents. The required...

Control for Molecular Machines
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed
Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed

Because of their high precision and speed, Delta robots are deployed in many industrial processes, including pick-and-place assemblies, machining, and welding. Delta...

Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed
Briefs : Materials
Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators
Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators

A technique was developed to prevent cross-coupling in systems where two or more linear electromechanical actuators (EMAs) are rigidly connected, and are in danger of...

Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators
Application Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
NASA's Autonomous Robot Keeps Manufacturing Floors Safe
NASA's Autonomous Robot Keeps Manufacturing Floors Safe

A600-pound spider-like robot, called Spidernaut, was part of a prototype robot team built in 2005 to assemble a solar array on the Moon. The goal was not only to have robots do the...

NASA's Autonomous Robot Keeps Manufacturing Floors Safe
Articles : Test & Measurement
Protecting Sensitive Instruments with Piezo-Driven Active Vibration Isolation Platforms
Protecting Sensitive Instruments with Piezo-Driven Active Vibration Isolation Platforms

As the need for nano precision has become increasingly important in many fields of research and manufacturing — such as microelectronics fabrication,...

Protecting Sensitive Instruments with Piezo-Driven Active Vibration Isolation Platforms
Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Choosing the Right Brake for Robotic Applications
Choosing the Right Brake for Robotic Applications

Industrial robots play an essential role in manufacturing, from assembly, to pick-and-place, to packaging. One of the major risks of robotics — and what OEMs seek to mitigate — is...

Choosing the Right Brake for Robotic Applications
Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Industrial Rotary Encoders: Selecting the Right Device for Your Application
Industrial Rotary Encoders: Selecting the Right Device for Your Application

Rotary encoders play important roles in motion control and industrial automation systems, providing control systems with information about the motion of motor...

Industrial Rotary Encoders: Selecting the Right Device for Your Application
Articles : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Cobots and Industrial Robots: Choose the Right Robot for the Job
Cobots and Industrial Robots: Choose the Right Robot for the Job

Automating manufacturing processes is a complex issue, with no one-size-fits-all solution. Robots range from insect-like microrobots to industrial robots powerful enough to...

Cobots and Industrial Robots: Choose the Right Robot for the Job
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Autonomous Robotic Self-Righting

Robots are increasingly being used for various applications including search and rescue operations and combat situations. Unfortunately, during the performance of maneuvers, a robot may fall or tip over, preventing it from moving normally. Controlling the robot to successfully right itself can be a difficult and...