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 : Motion Control
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility

Roboticists at the University of California, Berkeley, have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in what they claim is the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. The agility of the robot...

Briefs : Motion Control
Interactive Robot Control System and Method of Use

Researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple systems and subcomponents: vision systems, image-recognition systems, sensors,...

Briefs : Motion Control
Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns that are 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 capabilities. The disclosed invention is a new type of actuator that simultaneously drives dual...

Briefs : Motion Control
Robot Powertrain Moves Toward Energy Autonomy

Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for a team of robots. They consume a lot of energy to move across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day. Because charging stations are not a realistic scenario, University of...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

The Yale-CMU-Berkeley (YCB) Object and Model Set provides universal benchmarks for labs specializing in robotic manipulation and prosthetics. About two years ago, Aaron Dollar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale University, came up with the benchmark idea to...

Articles : Motion Control
The Basics of Encoder Selection

Many small motor applications, such as robotics, industrial equipment, and consumer products, employ digital incremental encoders for feedback sensing. Encoder selection is therefore an important part of the system design process. Choosing the best encoder for the job requires knowledge of the most important...

Articles : Propulsion
Servo Couplings for High-Tech Systems

Couplings are a critical part of system performance in high-tech applications, yet they are often one of the last components to be specified. Selecting the proper coupling ensures the equipment will meet performance requirements and have a long, trouble-free life. Poor coupling selection can lead to high...

Articles : Motion Control
Metallic Glass Shatters Gear Limitations

Gears play an essential role in precision robotics, and they can become a limiting factor when the robots must perform in space missions. In particular, the extreme temperatures of deep space pose numerous problems for successful gear operation. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA,...

Articles : Motion Control
Adding SCADA to a Hydraulic Power Unit

With an increased focus on plant productivity and equipment reliability, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems have become vital tools to reduce downtime while increasing asset reliability in hydraulic systems. A SCADA system is a computer system that essentially gathers and analyzes...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
PLCs Improve Control of Radio Broadcasts

Broadcasting employs the latest technology in many areas, but controlling the broadcast hardware connected to the antenna and the related transmission power, source, and facilities is usually still a low-tech operation. Typically, a broadcast engineer will drive to the unattended transmitter, translator,...

News : Software
Control Scheme Improves Motor Operation and Interaction
Control Scheme Improves Motor Operation and Interaction

A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy, is working to improve how industrial electric drives operate. They propose a new control scheme that will not only...

Control Scheme Improves Motor Operation and Interaction
News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Tool Helps Design Soft Robots That Can Bend and Twist
Tool Helps Design Soft Robots That Can Bend and Twist

Designing a soft robot to move organically — to bend like a finger or twist like a wrist — has always been a process of trial and error. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A....

Tool Helps Design Soft Robots That Can Bend and Twist
Articles : Motion Control
The Basics of Encoder Selection

Positioning: Resolution and Accuracy

An application’s required positioning resolution dictates the choice of encoder resolution. A well-tuned system can maintain the position within one encoder state (quadcount). Therefore, the encoder resolution in quadcounts (states) should at least correspond to the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Mechanisms for Achieving Non-Sinusoidal Waveforms on Stirling Engines

The current state-of-the-art Stirling engines use sinusoidal piston and displacer motion to drive the thermodynamic cycle and produce power. Research performed at NASA Glenn has shown that non-sinusoidal waveforms have the potential to increase Stirling engine power density,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improving Stirling Engine Performance Through Optimized Piston and Displacer Motion

Stirling engines typically achieve high efficiency, but lack power density. Low power density prevents them from being used in many applications where internal combustion engines are viable competitors, and increases system costs in applications that require...

INSIDER : Motion Control
Prototype Capture System Simulates Asteroid Mission

A robotic capture module system prototype was built to help NASA engineers understand the operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface. The hardware includes three space frame legs with foot pads, and two seven-degrees-of-freedom arms with microspine gripper...

INSIDER : Motion Control
Dike Inspection Robot is Energy-Autonomous

Inspecting the condition of dikes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dikes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy.

INSIDER : Motion Control
System Harvests Energy from Automotive Shock Absorbers

Boosting the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles by “harvesting” the energy generated by their shock absorbers and feeding it back into batteries or electrical systems such as air conditioning has become a major goal in automotive engineering. A University of Huddersfield (UK) researcher...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Machine-Learning System Recognizes Sounds from Video

A machine learning system from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognizes sounds by watching video. The neural network interprets natural sounds in terms of image categories, without hand-annotated training data.

Articles : Aerospace
Choosing Stepper- or Servo-Driven Actuators to Replace Air Cylinders

Advantages of Electric Linear Actuators

Reduced downtime. Electric linear actuators (whether screw- or belt-driven) are very low-maintenance. Regreasing may be the only regular maintenance necessary, and many screw-driven models are lubricated for the life of the...

Application Briefs : Aerospace
Custom Machines Create Engine Lip Skins on Boeing Aircraft

MJC Engineering, a custom machine tool builder in Huntington Beach, CA, specializes in metal-spinning machines for such applications as sheet spinning, flow forming, wheel spinning, and rotary forging. The company was commissioned to build a series of metal-spinning machines for GKN for...

Products : Motion Control
Linear Motor

The LinX® linear motor from Anca Motion USA (Wixom, MI) delivers a continuous force from 333 N to 665 N, and peak force from 2136 N to 4272 N. It features a cylindrical design with a thermal barrier that helps separate and remove heat from the motor. The motor’s zero net attractive forces eliminate the downforce associated with...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Optical Encoders

MICROMO (Clearwater, FL) announced the FAULHABER high-precision IER3 and IERS3 optical encoders. Both encoders deliver two-channel quadrature signals and an additional index signal. They can position a FAULHABER micro DC motor or brushless DC servomotor with a typical accuracy of 0.1° to 0.3°. The encoders combine the LED,...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Automatic Multi-Pallet Changer

Midaco Corp. (Elk Grove Village, IL) offers an automatic multi-pallet changer for 5-axis and standard vertical machining centers (VMCs). It can load and unload 19 aluminum pallets, one at a time, on any new or existing machine. The servo-driven automatic multipallet changer includes 19 aluminum pallets that are 10"...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Vertical Lift Module

Modula OnePick from Modula (Lewiston, ME) combines the company’s vertical lift technology with an automated system for picking or replenishing a single product directly from the bay. Using a secure delivery interface window, products can be automatically picked and replenished in combination with a delivery and takeaway...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Automation System

Liebherr (Saline, MI) introduced the Rotary Loading System (RLS) for entry into high-efficiency production with one or two machining centers. The compact automation system is designed for workpiece weights of up to 800 kg (RLS 800) or 1,500 kg (RLS 1500), and dimensions up to 1,300 mm. It serves as an entry-level system for...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Reversible Hard Jaws

Reversible hard jaws from Dillon Manufacturing (Springfield, OH) are suitable for ID and OD workholding. The jaws are designed to hold a specific range of part sizes and are usually used for first operation workholding. They are available in serrated, Acme Key, square key, and tongue-and-groove styles to fit all brands of...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Cable Retraction System

The triflex® RSE pullback system from igus (East Providence, RI) uses a simple linear retraction without bends, fiber rods, or rollers. The system consists of a drylin® linear guide with carriage, elastic cord for retraction, fastening plates for connection to a variety of robot types, mounting bracket without strain...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Collaborative Robot

Rethink Robotics (Boston, MA) introduced Sawyer, a smart collaborative robot designed to execute machine tending, circuit board testing, and other precise tasks. The robot modifies its behavior to respond to changing and unexpected conditions on the plant floor. The robot weighs 19 kg (42 lbs.), and features 7 degrees of...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Part Positioners

Yaskawa Motoman (Dayton, OH) expanded its line of RM2 ferris wheel-style robotic part positioners. The positioners have two servo-driven trunnion/station axes on opposite sides of a central “sweep” axis. One station is positioned in front of one to four welding robots, while the other station is outside the robot envelope...