Design engineers are likely to create a host of new applications for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). So predicts a panel of the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems of the National Research Council. But first, its study says, more R&D must be launched and completed. MEMS can produce tiny 3-D mechanical structures using lithography techniques derived from the construction of integrated circuits. Instead of handling only electrical signals, MEMS merges signal processing with sensing and actuation. Some systems have moving parts. Thus, MEMS makes possible miniature fluid-pressure and flow sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and micro-optical devices. The panel recommends enlarging R&D into MEMS-related fields, including surface materials, etching, packing, assembly, and engineering standards. CAD tools familiar in the design of integrated circuits are needed for MEMS, the study adds. Included are schematic-to-layout generation, automatic routing, and design verification. The result, the study says, could be "a revolution" of MEMS into medicine, robotics, navigation, computers, auto safety, munitions, instrumentation, and many other fields.
Two researchers from Cornell University have won a $100,000 grant from NASA to continue work to develop an energy-harvesting robotic eel the space agency aims to use to explore oceans on one of the moons of Jupiter.
Is the factory smarter than it used to be? From recent buzzwords, you’d think we’ve entered a new dimension in industrial plants, where robots run all physical functions wirelessly and humans do little more than program ever more capable robotics. Some of that is actually true, but it’s been true for a while.
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