The inspiration for a new robot being developed for military applications in other countries and space missions to other planets is a grasshopper. Researchers at the Department of Energy's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are developing a robot that uses a combustion-driven piston to make leaps as high as 20 ft. So why would anyone think this is a good idea? Because reliable mobility in difficult environments has eluded robotics engineers and complicated planetary exploration missions. Previous robots typically used wheels or tracks like those found on tanks or construction equipment, which are not reliable in environments with obstacles. Grasshoppers, on the other hand, jump from place to place, right themselves, and jump again, even in rough terrain. Rush Robinett of the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Center at Sandia National Laboratories got the idea while catching grasshoppers to use for trout fishing. "I thought to myself, I can make a robot do that," says Robinett. Potential applications include a machine that SWAT teams could toss into a window, which would hop around for a look inside a building. For more information, call (505) 845-9015.
sensors replace cooled detectors
Researchers at France's Laboratory for Electronics, Technology, and Instrumentation (LETI) are replacing detectors used for cooling infrared-binocular components to -258F with microbolometers. Bolometers are sensors that absorb radiation detected from objects. Unlike the cooled detectors that they replace, the new sensors work at ambient temperatures. The microbolometers use two superimposed materials. One is an absorber that converts the incident infrared radiation into an increase in temperature. The second material converts the temperature increase into electrical signals. Applications for the technology include night vision devices for military and aerospace industries, as well as preventative maintenance and monitoring of industrial processes. Contact the French Technology Press Office, One East Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60601; Tel: (312) 222-1235; FAX: (312) 222-1237.
are coming, and they're walking
Although the prosthetic devices that replace the thousands of limbs amputated from Americans each year help amputees walk, the way in which the devices work leaves room for improvement. "What amputees want is a way to walk without falling down when they encounter different types of terrain," says Dave Kozlowski, a U.S. Department of Energy researcher at Sandia National Laboratory (Albuquerque, NM). Kozlowski is working with project manager Diane Hurtado of the lab's Smart Integrated Lower Limb (SILL) project team to develop a prosthetic device that has sensors placed at strategic points along its foot and leg. These sensors allow users to adjust to changing terrain. "They include strain gauges, inclinometers, rate gyros, accelerometers, and myoelectric devices," says Hurtado. "They will work together to make the [prosthetic] leg function more like a unit, like a human leg does, and not like a collection of components acting separately," she says. The Seattle Orthopedic Group will set technical requirements for the limb. The Russian nuclear weapons laboratory Chelyabinsk 70 will perform materials work and testing. For more information, fax (505) 844-0645 or visit www.sandia.gov .
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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