Special Coverage

NASA Supercomputer Simulations Reveal 'Noisy' Aerodynamics
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris
Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space

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 encoder properties as well as the application’s control requirements.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Electronic control systems, Integrated circuits, Electronic control systems, Integrated circuits, Supplier assessment
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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 maintenance costs, frequent downtime, and imprecise positioning.

Posted in: Articles, Joining & Assembly, Motion Control, Power Transmission, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Materials properties, Fittings, Parts
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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, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators aim to bypass the limitations of existing steel gears by creating gears from bulk metallic glass (BMG).

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Metals, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Robotics, Robotics, Alloys, Glass, Gears, Durability, Durability, Spacecraft
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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 real-time data.

Posted in: Articles, Fluid Handling, Motion Control, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Hydraulic and pneumatic hybrid power, Productivity, Hydraulic control
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PRINTED ELECTRONICS: THE FUTURE IS FLEXIBLE

Low-Cost Printable Electronics Fabrication

The need for low-cost and environmentally friendly processes for fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips is rapidly growing. NASA has developed a unique approach for an atmospheric pressure plasma-based process for fabricating printable electronics and functional coatings. This system involves aerosol-assisted, room-temperature printing in which an aerosol carrying the desired material for deposition is introduced into a cold plasma jet operated at atmospheric pressure.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Electronic equipment, Sensors and actuators, Electronic equipment, Sensors and actuators, Additive manufacturing, Magnetic materials, Nanomaterials
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Laser Vision Helps Package Shippers See Clearly

For more than 25 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided stunning photos of the universe unequalled in their depth, detail, and distinction. But in its early days, Hubble wasn't capable of sending back such breathtaking photos. Within weeks of launch, the images beamed back to Earth were fuzzy and out of focus. It was determined that Hubble's primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape and was too flat by 2.2 micrometers, causing reflected light from the edge of the mirror to be focused on a different point than light coming from near the center. It was determined that the device used to create the nonspherical mirror had been incorrectly assembled, and the mirror's manufacturer had failed to notice the problem before Hubble was launched.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Lasers, Optics, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Lasers, Optics, Logistics
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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 maximum permissible positioning error. Depending on the response time of the system, a higher encoder resolution should be chosen for the controller to detect deviations faster and counteract quicker.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Calibration, Navigation and guidance systems, Navigation and guidance systems, Reliability, Reliability
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New Horizons for Aviation Technology

Thanks to advancements developed by NASA, today’s aviation industry is better equipped than ever to safely and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations. In fact, every U.S. aircraft and air traffic control tower uses NASA-developed technology. Streamlined aircraft bodies, quieter jet engines, drag-reducing winglets, and lightweight composite structures are an everyday part of flying thanks to NASA research that traces its origins back to the earliest days of aviation. But NASA isn’t finished. Here are some new technologies that could change the airline industry of the future.

Posted in: Articles, Aviation, Aircraft structures, Avionics, Avionics, Aircraft operations, Product development, Technical reference, Technical review, Air traffic control
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40 Years of Safer Aviation Through Reporting

The U.S. has an incredibly safe aviation system, partly because safety concerns are identified and corrected before they become real problems. NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is one of the tools used to make the system safe.

Posted in: Articles, Aviation, Data management, Historical reference, Risk management, Safety regulations and standards
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Spinoff: Wireless Platform Integrates Sensors with Smartphones

In 2007, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a call for a sensor that could equip a smartphone with the ability to detect dangerous gases and chemicals, Ames Research Center scientist Jing Li had a ready response. Four years earlier, she led a team that wrote a paper on the use of carbon nanotube sensors for gas and organic vapor detection.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Nanotechnology, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Chemicals, Gases, Nanotechnology
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