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
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
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 : Robotics, Automation & Control
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
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 : Robotics, Automation & Control
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,...

Application Briefs : Imaging
Algorithm Helps Lunar Rover Move Through Clutter

Today’s robots easily execute “pick-and-place” tasks: finding an object in one specified location and bringing it to another. But what if there are obstacles in a robot’s way? And what if the machine is on uncertain terrain, like the surface of the Moon?

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
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 : Propulsion
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 : Sensors/Data Acquisition
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 : Photonics/Optics
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 : Robotics, Automation & 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 : Robotics, Automation & 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 : Manufacturing & Prototyping
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...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Angle Sensors

Novotechnik U.S. (Southborough, MA) introduced the RSX-7900 Series angle sensors that provide up to IP69K ingress protection and ISO13849 PL-d safety compliance in a non-contacting design. The sensors are available in six standard measuring ranges with angles from 0 to 60, to 0 to 360 degrees with unrestricted rotation. Resolution...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Hexapod

Aerotech (Pittsburgh, PA) offers the HEX500-350HL high-load, six-degree-of-freedom hexapod for applications in sensor testing and high-force device manipulation. It is actuated with six struts that are built with preloaded bearings, ball screws, and drive components, and is driven by AC brushless, slotless servomotors that are directly...

Products : Robotics, Automation & Control
Level Indicator

The Model BM-T tilt Switch from BinMaster (Lincoln, NE) is a level indicator used for point level detection of heavy materials in bins, tanks, or silos, or over a conveyor belt or open pile. It is suspended vertically over a control point using a wire rope, chain, or flexible hanger. As the material level rises, the switch tips...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Machine Controller

Mitsubishi Electric Automation (Vernon Hills, IL) introduced the iQ-R Series machine control system that incorporates sequence, motion, safety, process, and C language control into one platform. The control platform is designed for applications requiring integrated motion and safety control, tight synchronization between...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Limboid Reconfigurable Robots for In-Space Assembly

Many future space vehicles, planetary bases, and mining operations will be too large and heavy to launch on a single rocket. Instead, component parts would need to be launched on multiple rockets and assembled in space. To enable versatile in-space assembly, a novel class of reconfigurable...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Cam Hand

A durable gripper tool was designed for use by RoboSimian robots intended for use in disaster scenarios that demand high-force, robust manipulation. The resulting Cam Hand fills a previously unaddressed niche that emphasizes grip strength and robustness over dexterity. The design uses a number of unique features to ensure high...

News : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Five-Fingered Robot Gets a Grip
Five-Fingered Robot Gets a Grip

Intricate tasks that require dexterous in-hand manipulation — rolling, pivoting, bending, and sensing friction — are a challenge for today's robots. A University of Washington team of computer scientists...

Five-Fingered Robot Gets a Grip