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Jackson, WY, United States

Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 149.59K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses a new approach to robotic mobility. Over the past decade, robots have become an increasingly important component of human existence. While the introduction of mobility technologies have allowed robots to migrate from manufacturing assignments out into the wider world, the vast majority of mobile robots rely solely on wheeled locomotion. Consequently, these platforms find their fields-of-play limited to relatively smooth, prepared surfaces. Elegant, biologically-inspired walking machines have been created that can address various technical challenges, but these robots are generally fraught with daunting complexities and depend on more energy efficient platforms to deploy them. In an effort to improve robotic adaptability, a new approach to robotics and mobility platforms is proposed. The strategy is predicated on a deformable "motion cell" with a unique icosahedral geometry. This motion cell can move via rolling, walking or climbing. It senses its surroundings and chooses the most effective mode of locomotion to traverse adjacent terrain. A program of applied research will determine cell morphologies needed for each mobility mode, monitor the mass distribution properties required, identify practical actuator configurations consistent with these morphologies and numerically evaluate the behavior of the resulting mechanism. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will enhance the field of robotics through an academic design approach developing a commercially viable product. Although the inherent design philosophy will allow the technology to morph with the market in years to come, specific commercial applications are already of note. Advanced sensory deployment via survey and reconnaissance missions will comprise the principle commercial market based upon versatile motion capabilities and the design's inherent scalability. The fully realized technology will be applicable to numerous fields including search and rescue, disaster relief, planetary exploration, academic sciences, and military reconnaissance. Specifically, technologies are actively sought by the military that transcend traditional wheeled/tracked mobility and are capable of overcoming obstacles and traversing technical terrain. Although large contractors as well as small private companies are developing competitive technologies, none possess the combined skill set of the proposed system. With the aid of strategic partnerships, the robotic platform will be poised to deploy sensors in unprecedented ways to previously inaccessible locals.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.80K | Year: 2008

Space-based systems have become indispensable elements of global communication, scientific research and military reconnaissance. The expenses associated with launching spacecraft are enormous and, once in orbit, any component failure may have catastrophic consequences. Extensive earth-based testing is essential to ensure a high success rate. To approximate the demanding conditions of space deployment, the Air Force maintains large test chambers capable of creating low temperature, high vacuum environments. However, commercial testing apparatus must be specially modified for the harsh cryo-vacuum environment and mechanical failures within these chambers are not uncommon. A program of applied research is proposed to develop a robust, high-precision positioning system that is fully compatible with space chamber environments. Commercial motion technologies that are inherently more compatible with high vacuum and very low temperatures are investigated. Design modification and novel materials with the potential of further improving the performance of these technologies are evaluated. Finally, ways that these individual design elements can be integrated to create a versatile, multi-axis position system are presented.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.75K | Year: 2008

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I research project explores the utility of a robot predicated on a novel Tri-Sphere design. Robots are playing a progressively more significant role in our modern world. In support of this ascendance, researchers have developed elegant, biologically-inspired robots with an impressive range of capabilities. However, these capabilities often come with daunting mechanical complexity. Consequently, robots required to function outside the laboratory generally make use of standard wheeled locomotion and utilize serial jointed manipulation. While functional, this configuration has serious limitations. New approaches to both locomotion and manipulation based on the Tri-Sphere design are proposed. As envisioned, Tri-Sphere robots will be rugged, scalable and capable of dexterous manipulation and autonomous mobility in unstructured environments. An applied research effort will develop a conceptual design for a Tri-Sphere mobility platform, explore complementary sensory systems, gauge the performance of the resulting robot and demonstrate the concept's potential for successful application to real-world needs. A fully realized Tri-Sphere robot will be a powerful enabling technology. The military represents the primary market for this system where, in various incarnations, it will perform explosive ordnance disposal, carry out reconnaissance missions and act as a self-propelled communications installation. The aerospace industry is a logical secondary market where dexterous Tri-Sphere manipulators will be integrated into spacecraft for automated on-orbit repair of satellites. The scalable, mechanically austere design of Tri-Sphere robots make them ideal candidates for operation on the surface of the moon and Mars where they will support our nation's ambitious space exploration goals. A third market is the Department of Energy where these high-payload mobile robots will assist in the clean-up of sites contaminated by nuclear waste.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 149.59K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses a new approach to robotic mobility. Over the past decade, robots have become an increasingly important component of human existence. While the introduction of mobility technologies have allowed robots to migrate from manufacturing assignments out into the wider world, the vast majority of mobile robots rely solely on wheeled locomotion. Consequently, these platforms find their fields-of-play limited to relatively smooth, prepared surfaces. Elegant, biologically-inspired walking machines have been created that can address various technical challenges, but these robots are generally fraught with daunting complexities and depend on more energy efficient platforms to deploy them. In an effort to improve robotic adaptability, a new approach to robotics and mobility platforms is proposed. The strategy is predicated on a deformable motion cell with a unique icosahedral geometry. This motion cell can move via rolling, walking or climbing. It senses its surroundings and chooses the most effective mode of locomotion to traverse adjacent terrain. A program of applied research will determine cell morphologies needed for each mobility mode, monitor the mass distribution properties required, identify practical actuator configurations consistent with these morphologies and numerically evaluate the behavior of the resulting mechanism.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will enhance the field of robotics through an academic design approach developing a commercially viable product. Although the inherent design philosophy will allow the technology to morph with the market in years to come, specific commercial applications are already of note. Advanced sensory deployment via survey and reconnaissance missions will comprise the principle commercial market based upon versatile motion capabilities and the designs inherent scalability. The fully realized technology will be applicable to numerous fields including search and rescue, disaster relief, planetary exploration, academic sciences, and military reconnaissance. Specifically, technologies are actively sought by the military that transcend traditional wheeled/tracked mobility and are capable of overcoming obstacles and traversing technical terrain. Although large contractors as well as small private companies are developing competitive technologies, none possess the combined skill set of the proposed system. With the aid of strategic partnerships, the robotic platform will be poised to deploy sensors in unprecedented ways to previously inaccessible locals.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.70K | Year: 2006

When completed, the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) will provide unprecedented opportunities for performing groundbreaking neutron science. Two reflectometers are planned for the SNS, one optimized for the measurement of liquid surfaces and the other for the measurement of magnetic materials. The SNS¿s high neutron flux will allow these instruments to collect complete data sets in minutes rather than hours. However, this same high flux will preclude users from entering the experimental area while the beam is on. Thus, to take full advantage of the SNS¿s power, special remote handling technologies must be developed. This project will develop an automated sample-handling workcell, optimized for use with the liquid surface reflectometer. This novel robotic system will allow a sample to be introduced into the experimental area, check the sample¿s identity, mate it with a size-specific carrier, and transfer it into an environmentally controlled chamber. The system also will be capable of dispensing precisely metered volumes of water, deuterium, and other liquids. Phase I included mechanism design, creation of a system-level controls architecture, and identification of sensor technologies, culminating in a robotic prototype that successfully performed all of the basic tasks required of the automated sample handling system. In Phase II, advanced sample environment technologies will be developed, along with a multi-function liquids handling capability. A beta system will be tested within the liquids surface reflectometer. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: The Automated Sample Handling Workcell should significantly increase the efficiency of SNS reflectometer experiments. Variations of the work cell should find applications in other SNS experiments as well as at other high flux neutron sources. It is anticipated that the life sciences industry could be another large market: protein crystallography requires huge numbers of crystallization ¿cocktails¿ to be precisely dispensed and manipulated, and the work cell would will be well suited to these complex, high-volume operations. Finally, the system could be adapted for difficult handling tasks in radioactive or other harsh environments.

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