Timing Issue for fluidic MEMS: Rare Earth Elements & Gearmotors
MEMS on Steroids are a workaround for REE-deficient gearmotors.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Jul 20, 2011


Colorado Springs, CO; LatchTool Group... Modern fluid power wedges motion control into the mix of hydraulics, electro-hydraulics and pneumatics. Motion control is the providence of powerful gearmotors—to make motors powerful they must be wound with an iron-neodymium-boron alloy.

With strategic foresight, China has gained control over 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth elements (REE) including neodymium, effectively giving the country control over the global market for small, powerful electric motors. The U.S. depends on imports of these motors for precision-guided munitions, ships, aircraft, and other critical weapons systems, including robots of all shapes and sizes.

World demand for REE is expected to outstrip supply by 2012. In a recent dust-up with Japan, however, China disrupted Japan’s supply of REE, demonstrating the sensitiveness of the world to this vulnerability. Then last week, Japan announced the discovery of a HUGE deposit of REEs deep on the sea bed floor off of Malaysia.

There is as yet no estimate of the time it will take to bring this resource online, but the geopolitical and technical hurdles will be immense.

LatchTool Group began developing its FastFlow® fluidic/Mechatronic Actuator technology with the discovery of its annular fluidic seal-valve. Initially conceived as a hydraulic boost for tools, it wasn’t until the Robotics Trends Robotics Summit 2011 on June 22 that the technology was repositioned as an operating technology (OT) for robots.

The rationale is a heavy lifting capability imparts a breakthrough power density feature to robots. “We are talking about a component part weighing ounces that can convert pounds of a motor’s torque into tons of linear force,” says Bob McPherson, LatchTool’s CEO.

He adds, “We have taken to describing our technology as MEMS on Steroids; Miniature Electro Mechanical Systems powered by fluidics. The only problem is that we are now using conflicted terminology to describe a paradigm already befuddled by a paradox and besieged by the times.”

Market research identifies fluidic MEMS as a technology that enables OT/IT convergence. It is the power density breakthrough that, merged with firmware, will give small robots the ability to heft weighty loads and swage with tons of force.

Visit LatchTool Group at the Robotics Summit Virtual Conference: New Applications for Industrial Robotics taking place on September 14, 2011. Click here to register.

FastFlow® within, FastFlow® fluidics & FastFlow® Microhydraulics are trademarks of LatchTool Group—aka LTG.
Fluidic MEMS is a registered trademark with the Colorado Secretary of State.
MEMS on Steroids™ is an unregistered trademark.
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