NASA SBIR 2002 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:02-II H5.02-9632 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 022367 )
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Robotics Assistance, Assembly, Maintenance, and Servicing
PROPOSAL TITLE: Novel Force Sensor for Robotics

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN: (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Sensortex, Inc.
515 Schoolhouse Road
Kennett Square , PA   19375 - 0644
(610 ) 444 - 2383

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER: (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Kelly Reuter
515 Schoolhouse Road
Kennett Square , PA   19375 - 0644
(610 ) 444 - 2383

Improvements in force/stress sensors are required for a variety of robotic applications, especially for finger/hand operation, which requires very small and sensitive sensors which are not available in the current generation of commercial sensors.
During the Phase I program, the potential utility of a new type of sensor was demonstrated in a variety of configurations; ranging from a low level load cell suitable for small cables to a non-contact strain and torque system. Both a low-level load cell and a high-level load cells were fabricated and measured, including devices using inductive (non-contact) coupling.
This Phase II program will produce such cable load cells in a variety of configurations suitable for robotics applications. The sensors developed will include an ultra-compact load cell suitable for use on robotic cables, including very thin cables/cordage such as used for finger/tendon motion. In addition, an ultra-compact wireless torque sensor suitable for plastic shafts and low torque levels will be fabricated. At the completion of the Phase II, both the sensors and signal processing electronics will be developed to a level that will permit application to NASA programs

There are numerous potential NASA applications for both direct force and torque measurements. These applications include both robotics and conventional applications and also ground and space based uses. A direct, immediate and potentially important application is incorporation of the sensors into the Robonaut system. Due to the sensitivity and very small size, of the sensors, they will be capable of supporting the Robonaut?s end effectors that mimic the human hand. A second potential NASA application is in the monitoring and control of planetary exploration vehicles and associated research equipment. Finally, the sensors have application in the use in robotic manipulators aboard platforms placed in earth orbit. An example is use for control of mobile servicing systems such as employed on the international space station. Each of these applications is direct and can be implemented on existing or planned NASA programs.

Because of the ubiquitous application of robotic technology in industry, the products to be developed during this Phase II effort are expected to have a significant market. For example, the commercial manufacturing (e.g. automotive industry) makes extensive use of robotics in the production process. Both the direct force load cell and the torque sensor are anticipated to have significant market potential for measurement and control of robots used in the manufacturing process. Robotics also is anticipated to provide an increasing role in the processing of hazardous wastes. Use of robotics can safely permit collection and analysis of potentially hazardous materials. In these applications, the load cell sensors can be incorporated directly to provide direct feedback to the operators to permit safe handling of these materials. The torque sensor is expected to have a potentially large direct market as a feedback and diagnostic sensor on rotating machinery for numerous applications.

Form Printed on 10-03-03 11:34