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.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns Separately Controllable to Drive Miniature Vehicles Along a Single Axis
Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns Separately Controllable to Drive Miniature Vehicles Along a Single Axis

Actuators are a critical driver of all the mechanisms used in space, and improvements of their operation mechanism enhance mission...

Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns Separately Controllable to Drive Miniature Vehicles Along a Single Axis
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Crab Crawl Maneuver for Independently Steerable Wheeled Platforms

An industrial-class excavator was developed for use on the Moon and perhaps on Mars. The model mobility platform uses Ackerman Steering with active drives on all six wheels, and steering on the corners. A faulty sequence of wheel steering and driving commands resulted in...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Continuous Diagnostic System Predicts Industrial Robot Faults
Continuous Diagnostic System Predicts Industrial Robot Faults

Robots in production lines work with micrometer precision, unless a component fails. If, for example, the linear actuator used to precisely position a car body in front of an...

Continuous Diagnostic System Predicts Industrial Robot Faults
Articles : Robotics, Automation & Control
2017 Create the Future Design Contest: Machinery Category Winner

EJBot: Versatile Climbing Robot for Industrial Vessel Inspection

Dr. Mohamed Gouda Alkalla and Mohamed Fanni
Mansoura University
Mansoura, Ad-daqahliyah, Egypt

The EJBot is a propeller-type climbing robot for climbing various types of structures to...

Articles : Robotics, Automation & Control
Mineral Analyzer Shakes Answers Out of Soil and Rocks

On the Curiosity rover, a tool called CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy) is helping scientists determine what minerals make up the Martian landscape, and whether single-celled or more complex organisms could once have thrived there. CheMin sends an X-ray beam through tiny samples of Martian...

Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Products of Tomorrow: November 2017
Products of Tomorrow: November 2017

This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that...

Products of Tomorrow: November 2017
Articles : Automotive
2017 Create the Future Design Contest Special Awards Section

The Create the Future Design Contest was launched 16 years ago by Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of Tech Briefs magazine) to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation. Since then, the annual contest has drawn more than 14,000 product design ideas from engineers, students,...

Blog : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Trick or Treat: Spooky Space Sounds from NASA, and 7 Techs that Creep and Crawl

Getting into the Halloween spirit, NASA released a collection of the spookiest sounds ever recorded by the agency's spacecraft instruments. Captured radio emissions reveal whistling helium, howling planets, and other mysterious noises from the depths of space.

INSIDER : Robotics, Automation & Control
Vacuum System Powers Modular Soft Robot

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have created the first functional robot powered entirely by vacuum. It is made up of soft building blocks that move by having air sucked out of them. The robot can be reconfigured to perform different tasks, like climbing...

INSIDER : Robotics, Automation & Control
Multi-Legged Robot Reconfigures in Real Time
Multi-Legged Robot Reconfigures in Real Time

Scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, PA have developed a modular, reconfigurable legged robot named Snapbot that can move forward, interact with its environment, and perform other tasks...

Multi-Legged Robot Reconfigures in Real Time
News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Creating the Future: An Industrial Robot Climbs to the Top

Petrochemical and liquid gas companies require a regular inspection of a vessel's welds and wall thicknesses — a dangerous task given the hazardous environment. A climbing robot, category winner in the 2017 “Create the Future” Design Contest, is potentially up to the challenge.

News : Aerospace
Drone Control: How the Human Brain Can Guide Robotic Swarms

Who needs a keyboard, a mouse, or a joystick? A researcher from Arizona State University wants to command machines with the human brain.

Question of the Week : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Will "print-and-go" structures lead to printable robots?

As seen in this week's Tech Briefs TV video, MIT researchers envision many possibilities for devices that self-fold without external stimuli.

Briefs : Motion Control
Robotic Inspector Traverses Water Pipes

Today's water distribution systems lose an average of 20 percent of their supply because of leaks. Current leak-detection systems are expensive and slow to operate, and they don't work well in systems that use wood, clay, or plastic pipes. A robotic system developed by researchers at MIT could provide a...

Products : Motion Control
New Products: October 2017 Motion Design

Torque Motor

ThinGap (Camarillo, CA) has developed the first member of a new motor family of high peak torque density brushless PM motors that reach over 20 Nm/Kg. The frameless LSI 105 torque motor model is 105 mm OD (4.125 inches) and 25.4 mm (1.0 inch) long. Continuous torque reaches over 2Nm...

Briefs : Motion Control
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris

Large amounts of existing space debris pose a threat to satellites, space vehicles, and astronauts aboard those vehicles. However, cleaning up the debris is problematic. For example, suction cups don't work in a vacuum, and traditional sticky substances like tape are largely useless because the chemicals...

Briefs : Motion Control
Computational Tool Simplifies Creating Machines That Bend

Replacing rigid joints and linkages with mechanisms that bend offers a number of potential advantages, even as it makes designing devices more difficult. A computational design tool developed by Disney Research promises to make this transition from rigid to compliant mechanisms easier....

Articles : Motion Control
Selecting the Correct Actuator

The need for actuators has grown exponentially. Nearly everywhere you look you can see pneumatic, hydraulic, or electric actuator systems at work in an endless variety of applications. There are many stereotypes surrounding these three types of motion systems, and while some of the ideas may stand true, many of the...

Briefs : Motion Control
Electromagnetic Actuator Decouples Linear and Rotary Motions

A lightweight module for rapid, accurate, and versatile positioning of semiconductor chips features a novel electromechanical actuator that can move objects both linearly and rotationally. The technology was developed by researchers at the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing...

Articles : Motion Control
MOTOR DRIVES: Build or Buy

Every system design presents a unique set of specifications regarding cost, space, time-to-market, and other factors. Designers must therefore make tradeoffs to meet these requirements, such as opting for a higher priced component to meet a stringent space constraint. For a motion application, design engineers can...

Articles : Motion Control
Inch vs. Metric Ball Screws: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Because ball screws are available in both inch and metric dimensions, designers sometimes begin the specification process by selecting a product family based on the unit of measure. This decision may prematurely exclude the ideal product for the application and lead to significant...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
Nano-Motion Stages Rely on High-Precision Encoders for Accuracy and Repeatability

ALIO Industries designs and builds very high precision automation stages for nano-level manufacturing and research applications, including microlithography, medical devices, and micro-machine tools. In this world where a misalignment of one micron might as well be...

Briefs : Motion Control
Wireless Magnetic Field Powers Folding Robots

Folding robots based on origami have emerged as an exciting new frontier of robotic design. However, they generally require onboard batteries or a wired connection to a power source, making them bulkier and clunkier than their paper inspiration and limiting their functionality. A team of researchers...

Briefs : Motion Control
Harmonic Air Motor Offers Very High Efficiency

Currently available air motors have many advantages over electric motors. They are more compact, lighter-weight, instantly reversible without sparking, create no heat buildup, are undamaged by stalling or overloading, and supply extremely broad torque and speed range. Generally available commercial...

News : Materials
Robotic Rubber ‘Skin’ Senses Temperatures. What’s Next?
Robotic Rubber ‘Skin’ Senses Temperatures. What’s Next?

A rubber “skin” developed at the University of Houston allows a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold temperatures. The semiconductor material supports new...

Robotic Rubber ‘Skin’ Senses Temperatures. What’s Next?
INSIDER : Aerospace
Origami Techniques Expand Compacted Spacecraft

Origami has once again inspired engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Besides aesthetic beauty, the Japanese tradition of paper-folding addresses a persistent problem faced by JPL engineers: how do you pack the greatest amount of spacecraft into the smallest...

INSIDER : Motion Control
Self-Folding Electronics Could Enable Advanced Robotics

MIT researchers have developed a way to print flat electronics that can fold themselves into a desired shape. The researchers say the development could have applications in robotics and human-machine interfaces.

INSIDER : Motion Control
Webb Telescope Actuators Move with Microscopic Accuracy
Webb Telescope Actuators Move with Microscopic Accuracy

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. With a 21-foot diameter, the telescope’s primary mirror is six times larger than the one used by...

Webb Telescope Actuators Move with Microscopic Accuracy
Question of the Week : Robotics, Automation & Control
Will origami-inspired crawler robots support pipe inspection?

This week’s lead story featured an origami-inspired robot. Assistant professor Aimy Wissa sees possible pipe inspection applications for the crawler.

"Pipes have different kinds of diameters, and you want something that can fit in there with ease," Wissa said in our Tech...

News : Motion Control
Learning to Crawl: Origami Robot Moves Like an Earthworm
Learning to Crawl: Origami Robot Moves Like an Earthworm

A new mechanical innovation unfolded this month at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a team of engineers built a new kind of crawler robot. The wheel-less design takes...

Learning to Crawl: Origami Robot Moves Like an Earthworm