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.

News : Electronics & Computers
Navy Grant Fuels Effort to Improve Safety of Military Technology

An Indiana University expert in the high-tech field of computer vision will collaborate with U.S. Navy engineers to improve the quality of microelectronic components used in critical military systems like communication and navigation. David Crandall, a professor in the IU...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Researcher Creates System to Control Robots With the Brain

A researcher at Arizona State University has discovered how to control multiple robotic drones using the human brain. A controller wears a skull cap outfitted with 128 electrodes wired to a computer. The device records electrical brain activity. If the controller moves a hand or thinks...

News : Electronics & Computers
Operators Control Multiple Drones by Thought

A researcher at Arizona State University has discovered how to control multiple robotic drones using the human brain. A controller wears a skull cap outfitted with 128 electrodes wired to a computer. The device records electrical brain activity. If the controller moves a hand or thinks of something,...

News : Medical
Wave-Propelled Robot Swims, Crawls, Climbs

The first single actuator wave-like robot (SAW) has been developed by engineers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The 3D-printed robot can move forward or backward in a wave-like motion, moving much like a worm would in a perpendicular wave.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Self-Latching Piezocomposite Actuator

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a self-latching piezocomposite actuator. The self-latching nature of this invention allows for piezo actuators that do not require constant power draw. Among other applications, the invention is well suited for use in aerodynamic control surfaces and engine...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Active Response Gravity Offload and Method

To train astronauts to live and work in the weightless environment on the International Space Station, NASA employs a number of techniques and facilities that simulate microgravity. Engineers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) have developed a new system called the Active Response Gravity Offload...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Fluid Harmonic Absorber

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Fluid Structure Coupling (FSC) technology is a highly efficient and passive method to control the way fluids and structures communicate and dictate the behavior of a system. This technology has the demonstrated potential to mitigate a multitude of different types of vibration issues,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Variable-Aperture Reciprocating Reed Valve

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center engineers have developed a new reed valve for controlling fluid flow back and forth between two chambers. The VARR valve provides two-way flow that is proportional to flow demand. As the pressure gradient builds on one side, the reed valve responds by opening an...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Passive, Integrated, Sublimator-Driven Coldplate

Spacecraft thermal control systems typically perform three key functions — heat acquisition, heat transport, and heat rejection — in addition to those of insulation, heat generation, and heat storage. In a typical pumped fluid-loop spacecraft thermal control system, heat is acquired from...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Strat-X

Experiments in space can be expensive and infrequent, but Earth’s upper atmosphere is accessible via large scientific balloons, and can be used to address many of the same fundamental questions. Scientific balloons are made of a thin polyethylene film inflated with helium, and can carry atmospheric sampling instruments on a gondola...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Hydraulic Pressure Distribution System

Human operation in space over long time periods causes bone and muscle deterioration, so there is a need for countermeasures in the form of physical exercises consisting of working against controlled resistivity. Generally, there are three types of exercise machines that are used by space crews to maintain...

News : Test & Measurement
Engineers Use Cyborg Insects as Biorobotic Sensing Machines

A team of engineers from Washington University in St. Louis is looking to capitalize on the sense of smell in locusts to create new biorobotic sensing systems that could be used in homeland security applications.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Dust Tolerant Connectors

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has developed a novel ruggedized housing for an electrical or fluid umbilical connector that prevents intrusion of dust, sand, dirt, mud, and moisture during field use under harsh conditions. The technology consists of a pair of hand-sized protective umbilical interface housings, each...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Systems, Methods, and Apparatus of a Low-Conductance Silicon Micro-Leak for Mass Spectrometer Inlet

Mass spectrometers on atmospheric entry probes require a method for introducing gas from high-pressure ambient regions to the vacuum of the mass spectrometer interior.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
In-Situ Load System for Calibrating and Validating Aerodynamic Properties of Scaled Aircraft in Ground-Based Aerospace Testing Applications

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed three techniques and systems to calibrate and validate wind-tunnel force balances and other multi-component force transducers. The first is the Single Vector...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Release of a Stuck Solar Array or Antenna

Satellite launches experience approximately one deployment failure every two years. These failures include a solar array or antenna that fails to deploy because it is stuck due to a mechanism failure, or is snagged by a cable or thermal blanket. Knowledge of the exact circumstances of the deployable...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
High-Heat-Flux-Capable Boundary Layer Vortex Generator and Boundary Layer Transition Device

Afixed geometry device has been developed to promote boundary layer transition and generation of streamwise vorticity, and is capable of withstanding entry heating environments for the Space Shuttle Orbiter. Designed to have a total height above the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
GEMINI Stability Control for Reducing Pointing Jitter in CubeSats and Smallsats

Because of the cost-effectiveness of flying smallsats compared to large flagship spacecraft, there is increasing interest in boosting their capabilities for supporting precision science payloads and sophisticated instrumentation. Unfortunately, a major current...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Piezoelectric-Actuated Rotary Ultrasonic Motor

This actuator was developed out of a need for a cryogenic actuator that can operate effectively in spite of the thermal mismatch involved with construction materials that have different expansion coefficients. Also, there is a need for a cryogenic motor that can drive infrared systems and produce...

Articles : Aerospace
NASA's Game-Changing Robotics

“Over the years, I’ve asked people, ‘If you had a robot, what would you want it to do for you?’” said Rob Ambrose, principal investigator for NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and chief of the Software, Robotics, and Simulation Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. When he asks astronauts,...

News : Electronics & Computers
Thought-Controlled Robotic Arm Mimics Real Limb

Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University are developing a robotic arm prototype and its control algorithm using myoelectric signals. The mechanical limb will independently recognize the motions of its owner and perform the same motions as a healthy arm.

News : Motion Control
Soft Actuator Provides Gentle Strength for Robots

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart developed a motion system that is compliant and can be integrated in robots thanks to its space-saving design. The device consists of a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA), which is a membrane made of hyperelastic...

News : Automotive
Technique Controls Autonomous Vehicles in Extreme Conditions

Researchers have devised a novel way to help keep a driverless vehicle under control as it maneuvers at the edge of its handling limits. The new technology is being tested by racing, sliding, and jumping one-fifth-scale, fully autonomous auto-rally cars at the equivalent of 90 mph. The...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Researchers Test Galaxy-Seeking Robots

A telescope project from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will use a planned array of 5,000 galaxy-seeking robots to produce a 3D map of the universe. Dubbed ProtoDESI, the scaled-down, 10-robot system will help scientists achieve the pinpoint accuracy needed...

News : Imaging
Optics Breakthrough Could Revamp Night Vision

A breakthrough by an Australian collaboration of researchers could make infrared technology easy-to-use and cheap, potentially saving millions of dollars in defense and other areas using sensing devices, and boosting applications of technology to a host of new areas, such as agriculture. Infra-red...

Articles : Motion Control
Simplified Machine Design Approach for Optimal Servomotor Control

An often asked question from industrial machine builders or integrators is how they can effectively design or implement the conversion of a machine with servo technology to meet performance expectations. This is a specialized task filled with layers of complexity that can prove...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
Anti-Creep Mechanism Enables Ultra-Precise Motor Table Positioning

Motion control is essential for the digitization and automation of high-tech equipment, but bearings remain basic to frictionless movement. Bearing Engineers, a bearing distributor, recently changed its name to Motion Solutions (Aliso Viejo, CA) to better reflect their evolution...

Products : Motion Control
Motor Drive

The RoadRunner SoftStep R213S microstepping motor drive from Testra Corp. (Tempe, AZ) features an onboard processor that treats the input steps as small vector moves, and chains them together with 250 or 256 microsteps per regular motor step with controlled accelerations. Dual chopper stabilized current comparators and...

Products : Motion Control
Positioners

ALM Positioners (Rock Island, IL) released the Model MHL1P 10,000-pound-capacity single-column positioner that features 68.5" vertical travel in 35 seconds; a pendant-controlled, 4-HP, column-mounted hydraulic unit for lifting and lowering; solenoid- controlled safety pawls; 360-degree CW or CCW rotation; a rotator with 267,200...

Products : Motion Control
Linear Slide

Haydon Kerk Motion Solutions (Waterbury, CT) introduced the WGS Wide Guide Screw linear slide that utilizes a screw-driven carriage. Length and speed are not limited by critical screw speed, allowing high RPM, linear speed, and long stroke lengths. The slide offers stroke options of 6, 12, and 18" in three leads (0.1, 0.5, and...