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.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Will telepresence drones take off?

This week’s Question: According to a recent application made public last week, Google is hoping to patent a "mobile telepresence system." The proposed drone is designed for collaboration with colleagues from remote locations. The technology will fly indoors and move from room to room, adjusting to...

A group of researchers at Osaka University, Kobe University, Tohoku University, The University of Tokyo, and Tokyo Institute of Technology developed construction robots for disaster relief that solve...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & 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...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & 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)....

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

Briefs: Motion Control
Chain Drive Dust Conveyer

The Mars 2020 coring drill will generate a significant amount of dust and debris (known as fines) due to the volume of milled material displaced by the corer’s annulus. These cuttings must be removed to...

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 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...

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...

Articles: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
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...

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...

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...

Application Briefs: Software
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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

News: Software
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.

Advantages of Electric Linear Actuators

Reduced downtime. Electric linear actuators (whether screw- or belt-driven) are very low-maintenance. Regreasing may be the only...

Application Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
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,...

Products: Software
Modeling and Analysis Software

COMSOL (Burlington, MA) announced updates to COMSOL Multiphysics® modeling and simulation software that include a Rotordynamics Module. The module is designed to help engineers analyze vibrations due to...

Products: Robotics, Automation & Control
Foundry Robot

ABB Robotics (Auburn Hills, MI) introduced the IRB 1200 Foundry Plus 2 robot for material handling and machine tending. The compact foundry robot features the company’s optional protection system so it resists corrosion and...

Products: Robotics, Automation & Control
Robot Programming Software

With the RISE interactive graphical interface from Hypertherm (Hanover, NH), users control the Robotmaster V6 programming software from within a robot simulation environment. Users can modify a robot’s positions...

Products: Motion Control
Digital Piezo Controller

PI (Physik Instrumente) L.P. (Auburn, MA) announced a 4-channel version of the E- 727 digital piezo controller that is designed for multi-axis nanopositioning applications. The controller features a choice of...

Products: Robotics, Automation & 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...

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