Motion Control

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain

Traditional robots often feature isolated mechanical joints. These discrete components limit a rover’s ability to traverse sand, stone, and other challenging environments. A team at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated a more flexible option: a soft robot that lifts its legs over obstacles and operates on a variety of terrains. The 3D-printed quadrupedal technology may someday support search-and-rescue missions requiring intelligent navigation capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Terrain, Kinematics, Additive manufacturing, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles

High-Temperature Actuators Bend as They “Breathe”

The mechanical components are made from films that expand and contract as they let oxygen in and out.

Extreme temperatures are hard for mechanical components to endure without degrading. To address the problem, researchers at MIT worked with several other universities to develop a new way to make actuators that could be used in exceptionally hot environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Heat resistant materials, Materials properties, Test equipment and instrumentation

3D-Printed Tensegrity Object Can Change Shape

The technology creates a large, lightweight, strong object that can be flattened and then expanded to its full size when heated.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of dramatic expansion. The technology could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices. The new 3D-printed objects use tensegrity, a structural system of floating rods in compression and cables in continuous tension. The researchers fabricated the struts from shape memory polymers that unfold when heated.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Additive manufacturing, Fabrication, Materials properties, Polymers, Smart materials

Reduce Compressed Air Costs with Proper Air Cylinder Sizing

Choosing an air cylinder without a full understanding of how it will perform in a pneumatic circuit can have long lasting, costly consequences.

There may be no stronger ally of electrical power utilities than industrial size air compressors, as they drone on every day, taking atmospheric air and transforming it into useful energy. Countless kilowatt hours are gobbled up in a mechanical conversion of electrical power into pneumatic power, a process that is wickedly inefficient, with one horsepower of pneumatic energy costing six times as much to generate when compared to one horsepower of electrical energy. Nevertheless, with its tremendous versatility, efficiency, and widespread use throughout many sectors, compressed air provides a clean, reliable source of pneumatic power that has a value outweighing its cost to produce.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control

Energy Management Through Direct Drive Servo Technology

Inertia ratio provides a determinate measure for optimizing energy utilization of a servo motor during a machine’s design.

Direct drive servo motor and drive technology has many advantages. It reduces an axis’ parts count, mechanical losses, and often its objectionable noise. What’s more, it also increases the machine’s efficiency, lowering operation cost for the user due to its inertia ratio as compared to the more common mechanically advantaged multi-body axis designs. Reducing the mechanical transmission components (gearboxes, timing belts, pulleys, cams, lead screws, etc.) between the motor and its load is only part of the savings.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control

Smart Actuators Add Brains to Automation Brawn

Integrated electronics let smart actuators perform enhanced control functions that were previously external, such as switching, position feedback, and system diagnostics.

Actuators have always been on the frontline of automation, providing the “push and pull” that extends human capabilities to operate everything from delicate pick-and-place applications to 10-ton agricultural combines. Now, as the industrial world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, a new generation of actuators is fulfilling that role with more intelligence, simplicity, and economy, while overcoming increasingly challenging environmental conditions.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control

Flat, Triangular Modules Connect to Form Origami Robot

Using two genderless mechanisms, module sides are connected and folded to create reconfigurable 3D structures.

Origami robots are composed of thin structures that can fold and unfold to change shape. They are compact and lightweight, but have functional restrictions related to size, shape, and how many folds can be created. On the other hand, modular robots use large numbers of individual entities to reconfigure the overall shape and address diverse tasks. These robots are more flexible when it comes to shape and configuration, but they are generally bulky and complex.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Robotics, Lightweight materials, Materials properties

New Products: August 2017 Motion Design

Brushless AC Servo Motors

Allied Motion Technologies (Amherst, NY) introduced the HeiMotion™ Premium (HMP) brushless AC servo motor family. The motors, which have a 20,000+ hour life span, are available in five metric frame sizes with rated torque from 0.12 up to 14.4 Nm, and continuous shaft power from 50 W to 3.75 kW. Standard flange sizes include 40, 60, 80, 100, and 130 mm. Top speed ranges from 2,000 to 9,000 RPM; holding torque goes from 0.18 to 18.5 Nm; and winding voltage choices extend from 48 V up to 560 V. Optional features include standard resolver or encoder (including single cable HIPERFACE® DSL interface), holding brake, and connector choices.

Posted in: Products, Motion Control

Straws Help Create Simple Robot Joints

Plastic drinking straws and inflatable tubing are used to build machines that walk like insects.

Inspired by arthropod insects and spiders, Harvard professor George Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski, a former postdoctoral fellow in Whitesides’ Harvard lab, used ordinary plastic drinking straws to create a type of semi-soft robot capable of standing and walking. The team also created a robotic water strider capable of pushing itself along the liquid surface.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Design processes, Robotics, Materials properties, Plastics

Eliminate Interference from Converter Output

Motor chokes, sine wave filters, and EMC sine wave filters can help suppress the electromagnetic interference at a frequency converter’s output.

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in frequency converters can be very problematic if not addressed properly in the initial design. EMC ensures the proper operation of devices to avoid negative electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects. Good design takes into account the control, design, and function of each device to prevent such interference.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control

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