College of Engineering 1996 Annual Report: Progress By Design Mechanical Engineering
A boundary element simulation of streamlines in a single screw extrusion. The colored streamlines represent the amount of time a particle takes to move through the extruder. This work is being done in connection with the Polymer Processing Research Group and Rheology Research Center. (20K JPG) Single screw boundary element simulation

New control methods for robotic devices

Professor Neil A. Duffie is working with support of the National Science Foundation and the NASA-funded Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WCSAR) to develop new control methodologies for robotic devices and automated systems that reduce cost and complexity and increase flexibility, fault tolerance and performance. A major effort involves control of the Commercial Biotechnology Plant Facility (CBPF) for the International Space Station. The CBPF requires open, modular, robust control architectures and designs with high levels of reliability and efficiency. Many subsystems must be controlled including lighting, temperature, humidity, fluid-nutrient delivery and the composition of the atmosphere. Concurrent work supported by industry is leading to flexible user interfaces for remote robotic servicing of facilities such as the CBPF and Space Shuttle flight experiments, as well as terrestrial applications in manufacturing.

High-tech hydrostatic automobiles

With the support of the Environmental Protection Agency, Associate Professor Frank J. Fronczak and his students are building a hydrostatic energy storage vehicle with potential for significant improvement in fuel economy over conventional cars. The hydraulic car also has advantages when compared to other options, such as hybrid electric vehicles under development in the "SuperCar" program. A conventional engine is used to drive a hydrostatic pump which delivers hydraulic power either to individual hydrostatic wheel motors or to an energy storage hydropneumatic accumulator. The inclusion of the energy storage accumulator allows the engine to operate more efficiently because its power can be split between driving the vehicle and being stored in the accumulator. The wheel motors can also function as pumps to allow regenerative braking.

New transient engine test facility

1996 marks the beginning of a major initiative in the Powertrain Control Research Laboratory. Members of the lab, led by Associate Professor John J. Moskwa, will develop a unique transient engine test facility for the development and validation of dynamic engine control and diagnostic techniques. The facility, made possible by the Ford Motor Company, includes not only a high-bandwidth engine dynamometer, but also a new flexible engine control system as well as a DSP-based dynamometer control system for hardware-in-the-loop operation. The lab will be equipped with a high-speed data acquisition system, and both steady-state and fast transient emission measurement equipment.

Making more sensitive, responsive robots

Robots and electromechanical systems (such as many consumer products) are capable of adjusting their behavior to a wide variety of circumstances. These systems are based on a combination of different structures ranging from low-level feedback loops to high-level decision making. Assistant Professor Nicola J. Ferrier is developing a methodology to evaluate the overall achievable performance (timing, robustness and safety) given the specific system characteristics (sensors, actuators, computation and communication). One particular issue is how to incorporate sensory information. Ferrier is working to make vision the sensor of choice in mechatronic systems. Vision is non-invasive, passive, potentially accurate and has large dynamic range, but involves extra effort in terms of computation, calibration and timing.


Copyright 1996 University System Board of Regents

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Date last modified: Wednesday, 25-Sep-1996 12:00:00 CDT
Date created: 25-Sep-1996

1996 Annual Report Contents