Special Coverage

Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

Multifunctional Platelet Composites for Tin Whisker Mitigation

Applications include consumer electronics, automotive, and electronic weapons systems.

To comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, pure tin is replacing lead-tin alloys in commercial electronic devices. Unfortunately, tin can grow whiskers that can lead to electrical short circuits or metal vapor arcing, both of which threaten the long-term reliability of electronic systems, and cause critical systems to fail catastrophically. A current method of whisker mitigation utilizes coatings based on glassy or rubbery unfilled polymers; such coatings are not impenetrable to tin whiskers.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Additive-Manufactured, Very Lightweight, Diamond Turned Aspheric Mirror

Industrial-grade, lightweight mirrors used in military and aeronautics have tight specifications brought on by demanding performance parameters. For example, a mirror that is used in an orbiting telescope would have to be extremely lightweight, stiff, and be configured to operate in extreme temperatures. These parameters traditionally work against each other. A material that is stiff is typically heavy, and a mirror that is lightweight and machinable may greatly distort when exposed to extreme heat or cold. Furthermore, materials that fit some of these parameters may not be easily machined to create a mirror — an art that requires high-precision tooling.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics
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Virtual Fabrication and Assembly Documentation

Over the years, the term “virtual” has become associated with many different domains. Virtual machines are now commonplace as a substitute for physical laptops or desktops, allowing for the emulation of computer systems. Of course, virtual reality is in the news daily as new headsets, apps, and games provide a substitute for images and sounds, allowing for the simulation of a three-dimensional environment. In the printed circuit board (PCB) space, some fabrication and assembly information such as artwork, drill, netlist, test, and component placement have been conveyed virtually to manufacturing for more than 30 years.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics & Computers
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Electrically Conductive, Optically Transparent Polymer/Carbon Nanotube Composites

A templated growth process provides uniform-sized carbon nanotubes.

NASA's Langley Research Center researchers have developed a novel method for making carbon nanotubes that are very uniform in size. A template is used to guide the carbon nanotube growth so that all nanotubes are uniform in size. The carbon nanotubes can be used as-grown, uniformly dispersed, and aligned within the template or isolated from the template for use as carbon nanotubes. The solution-based process uses sugar as a carbon source, does not require vacuum, and is thus simple and low-cost in nature.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Chip-Sized Terahertz Modulator for Faster Data Transmission

This modulator is suitable for THz transmitters/receivers on a single chip.

Tufts University engineers have invented a chip-sized, high-speed modulator that operates at terahertz (THz) frequencies at room temperature and at low voltages without consuming DC power. The discovery could transmit data at significantly higher speeds than currently possible.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Integrated High-Speed Torque Control System for a Robotic Joint

This highly dexterous humanoid robot is designed to handle complex and delicate operations.

Researchers at the NASA 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). R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries, including logistics and distribution. Even though R2 is currently designed with only a mobile upper body, R2's ability to accomplish complex and delicate operations provides a higher level of sophistication not currently seen in the existing robotics field for logistics and distribution. In terms of handling inventory, R2's dexterity would allow it to handle a multitude of items, including delicate ones. R2 can safely work in close proximity to humans, making the robot suitable to work in complex environments such as distribution centers. R2 has the ability to operate equipment and machines designed for humans, like handheld power tools or inventory-scanning equipment. R2's design enables many useful applications in logistics and distribution.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Acoustic Propagation and Emulation Toolset (APET)

This software suite assesses the effects of terrain, weather, and computational method on acoustic propagation and audibility.

Currently, APET includes a modified version of the Rotorcraft Noise Model (RNM, version 7). It also includes the newly developed Spectral Attenuation Method (SAM), which contains the Ray Tracing Program (RTP) and two versions of a Green's Function Parabolic Equation (GFPE) code. The third component of APET is an audibility prediction scheme initially called ICHIN (I Can Hear It Now), and further developed by Wyle as AUDIB.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Developing a Satellite-Based Autonomous Vehicle Control System

This system incorporates a satellite system, multiple sensors, and vehicle control system.

The rapid rise of global interest in the field of autonomous driving is ushering in a new era of automobiles. With many vehicles already offering autonomous preventative safety systems, the addition of improved road infrastructure could increase the reliability and maturity of autonomous driving functions, ultimately increasing the driver's sense of safety.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Wearable Robotic System for Minimally Invasive Surgery

This tool supports and enhances the surgeon's performance in urology, cardiovascular, and orthopedic fields.

Researchers developed a wearable robotic system for minimally invasive surgery (also known as keyhole surgery) that will offer surgeons natural and dexterous movement, as well as the ability to sense, see, control, and safely navigate through the surgical environment. The need for better tools in robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery was identified to support and enhance the surgeon's performance in urology, cardiovascular, and orthopedic fields, and to expand the potential for this technology to more complex surgical procedures.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems

Potential applications include networked autonomous cars and delivery drones in which security would be a major issue.

Multi-robot systems deployed in real-world applications are exposed to the same issues that computer systems face. A cybersecurity attack on a robot has the consequences of an attack on a computer system, with the added risk that the robot could be controlled to take potentially damaging action.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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