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.

Articles : Aerospace
2015 Create the Future Design Contest: Machinery/Automation/Robotics Category Winner

Compact, Long-Reach Robotic Arm

William R. Doggett, John T. Dorsey, George G. Ganoe, Thomas C. Jones, and Cole K. Corbin, Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA); Bruce D. King, Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD); and Charles D. Mercer, Stinger Ghaffarian...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Engineers Put 'Spring' in Robots' Step

The ATRIAS robot model developed at Oregon State University uses a "spring-mass" walking approach. The natural-gait method gives human-sized bipedal robots the ability to blindly react to rough terrain, maintain balance, retain an efficiency of motion, and walk like humans.

News : Nanotechnology
Nanoclutch Transmits Torque at Small Scales

When driving a car, the clutch mechanically carries the torque produced by the engine to the chassis of the vehicle – a coupling that has long been tested and optimized in such macroscopic machines, giving us highly efficient engines. At microscopic length scales, different physics need to be...

News : Medical
Mapping Human Movement to Improve Rehabilitative Robotics

The Biomechatronics Group at MIT is using a data-driven approach to study the mechanics and control of human walking, with the goal of applying the findings to hardware control. PhD student David Hill is developing a model that could be used to improve assistive devices that can help...

News : Software
Researchers Test Robot's 'Light Touch'

Using an air-fluidized bed trackway filled with poppy seeds or glass spheres, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology systematically varied the stiffness of the ground to mimic a variety of surfaces, from hard-packed sand to powdery snow. By studying how running lizards, geckos, crabs, and a...

News : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Embedded Optical Sensors Make Robotic Hands More Dexterous

Researchers have developed a three-fingered soft robotic hand with embedded, stretchable fiber optic strain sensors. By using fiber optics, the researchers were able to embed 14 strain sensors into each of the fingers in the hand, giving it the ability to determine where its fingertips...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
Service Robots Use Flat Motors to Provide Reliable, Safe Motion

Unlike industrial robots for manufacturing, service robots come with their own specification requirements aimed specifically at the end user, and the most discriminating user at that — a human being. That’s why designing and manufacturing service robots takes a particular set of...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
Encoders Ensure Position Accuracy of Linear-Torsion Tester

Instron (Norwood, MA) manufactures materials testing equipment and accessories that are used to test samples ranging from components for jet engines to medical syringes. The company’s ElectroPuls systems are used for fatigue testing, which examines the behavior of materials under...

Products : Motion Control
Piezo Drive

The Ensemble QDe™ desktop nanopositioning piezo drive from Aerotech (Pittsburgh, PA) was designed for seamless use with the Ensemble family of drives and controllers. The QDe connects to any Ensemble controller network, enabling coordinated motion between piezo stages and servo axes. The drive is suitable for single- or multi-axis...

Products : Motion Control
Linear Stage

Bell-Everman (Goleta, CA) offers the SLS Light sealed linear stage that keeps contamination such as manufacturing debris, particulate, or liquid contaminants outside of the stage housing. The stage measures 80 x 120 mm, and has maximum dynamic payloads of 15 kg for the direct drive linear motor version and 30 kg for the ball screw...

Products : Motion Control
Position and Angle Measurement

The BML series from Balluff (Florence, KY) offers absolute position and angle measurement for installation or direct integration into drive and positioning systems. The magnetically encoded systems with Permagnet® nonius technology feature IP 67 housing for external installation. As an open kit for integration,...

Products : Motion Control
Linear Guide System

PBC Linear (Roscoe, IL) released the Compact Series low-profile linear guide system for repeatable linear motion in tight spaces. The system features a 23-mm standard height, and can be configured to adapt to specific applications in automation, medical, dispensing robotics, and electronic board manufacturing. Options include...

Products : Motion Control
Linear Encoder

MICRONOR (Newbury Park, CA) introduced the MR303 linear position sensor system for OEM motion control applications. With 100-μm resolution and 50-μm accuracy, the encoder is suitable for medical, MRI, robotic, and industrial applications where position and speed must be precisely monitored, and electromagnetic immunity and...

Products : Motion Control
Rotary Encoders

POSITAL (Hamilton, NJ) released programmable incremental rotary encoders, enabling performance characteristics such as resolution (number of pulses per turn) and incremental pulse direction (A before B or B before A) to be modified by changing firmware parameters. The characteristics of the output driver can similarly be set to...

Products : Motion Control
PWM Servo Drives

ACS Motion Control (Bloomington, MN) offers the NPMPM Series of dualaxis EtherCAT NanoPWM™ pulse width modulation servo drives. When utilized with the optional 10-MHz laser encoder interface and ServoBoost™ control algorithm, positioning systems can achieve speeds above 2 m/s, sub-nanometer jitter values, nanometer velocity...

Products : Motion Control
Brushless DC Motors

PITTMAN® Motors, a business unit of AMETEK Precision Motion Control (Harleysville, PA), introduced the EC042B brushless DC motor series. The high-torque-density model is designed as a general-purpose servomotor. Its NEMA 17 mounting configuration is adaptable to most metric mounting requirements. The motors are available in...

Products : Motion Control
Drives

NORD Gear Corp. (Waunakee, WI) offers the SK 180E drives for applications that do not utilize the scope of functionality found in frequency inverters. The drives focus on the functionality necessary for pumps and conveyor technology. They offer a continuous range of performance and optional features for a variety of applications. The...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robots Provide 3D Map of England's Deepwater Canyons

Using a unique combination of marine robotics and ship-based measurements, the Southampton, UK-based National Oceanography Centre (NOC) produced a three-dimensional picture of submarine canyon habitats. The information captured in the new set of maps ranges in scale from the 200-km canyon...

News : Motion Control
Fluidic Actuator Harnesses Instability to Trigger Movement

Soft machines and robots are becoming more and more functional, capable of moving, jumping, gripping an object, and even changing color. The elements responsible for their actuation motion are often soft, inflatable segments called fluidic actuators. These actuators require large amounts...

News : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Recycling Electric Motor Permanent Magnets

The latest generation of electric motors is increasingly being equipped with strong, multi-ton permanent magnets instead of a gearbox. The most powerful magnets are based on neodymium, iron, and boron. Dysprosium is also frequently contained. But while iron and boron are readily available, the supply of...

News : Medical
New Approach Gives Robotic Grippers More Dexterity

Most robots on a factory floor are equipped with large pincers or claws to grab an object and place it somewhere else in an assembly line. Engineers at MIT have now hit upon a way to impart more dexterity to simple robotic grippers: using the environment as a helping hand. The team developed a...

News : Motion Control
New Method Builds Microscopic Robots of Complex Shapes

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide, and magnetically controlled.

News : Photonics/Optics
Depth-Sensing Camera Captures 3D Information in Sunlight and Darkness

Depth-sensing cameras, such as Microsoft’s Kinect controller for video games, have become widely used 3-D sensors. Now, a new imaging technology addresses a major shortcoming of these cameras: the inability to work in bright light, especially sunlight. The key is to gather...

News : Imaging
Object Recognition for Robots

SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, enables mobile autonomous robots to map their environments and determine their locations. SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems, a vital component of future robots that have to manipulate the objects around them in arbitrary ways. A new system...

Articles : Robotics, Automation & Control
Choosing the Right Drive Technology

Although there are a number of variations of drive technologies for motion applications, there are a few that are used for the majority of systems being built today. These most common drives do take a bit of understanding before applying.

Articles : Robotics, Automation & Control
Reasons for Turning to Slotless DC Motor Technology

When first introduced, brushless DC motors, despite their many advantages, were cast as a costly alternative to brush-commutated motors, and were typically only specified for low-power applications where long life was the primary desired requirement. Without the mechanical brush-commutator...

Application Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Motion Solutions for Electric Expansion Valves

Expansion valves are flow-restricting devices present in any refrigeration system. The valve needle remains open during steady state of operation. The size of the opening, or position of the needle, is related to the pressure and temperature of the evaporator. When set and controlled properly, an...

Application Briefs : Motion Control
Hamburg Airport Relies on Drive Technology to Keep Bags Moving

Hamburg Airport in Germany handles nine million pieces of baggage every year. For the baggage handling staff, the reliability of the conveyor system and the prevention of faults are the highest priorities. The breakdown of even a single component of the system would result in a...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Brushless Electric Motor

maxon precision motors (Fall River, MA) offers the EC-4pole 30 brushless DC motor that features two pole pairs, and provides a nominal torque of 106 mNm and an output of 150 W. It has a hermetically sealed rotor to withstand more than 1,000 autoclave cycles. The motor is equipped with the ironless maxon winding. The...