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Bulk Metallic Glass Robot

Bulk Metallic Glass and… robot? Let’s discover what NASA is testing in order to plan new incredible adventures in space
23/03/2020

Bulk metallic glass and… robot? It’s all about the innovation and the research developing new solutions to plan new incredible experiences and discover (almost) inaccessible places.

At NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California), Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are producing and studying better gears made from Bulk Metallic Glass since 20161.


The principal reason why NASA is testing BMG is that they’re looking for solutions for mobility in harsh environments, like Europa’s one, a Jupiter’s Moon. Exactly. 

The initial tests have demonstrated a strong torque and a smooth turning without lubricant, even at -328 degrees Fahrenheit (-200 degrees Celsius). 

If you want to send your robots to a frozen landscape, you have to be sure they will work in every climate conditions.


Nasa and robot before the Bulk Metallic Glass

Let’s make a step back.

The deployment of Planetary Gears (PGs) and Strain Wave Gears (SWG) on spacecrafts began in 1970 with the mission Apollo 15 Lunar Rover and it continues with the Mars Rover Curiosity.

This one needs heated lubricant to keep working, which means precious power and energy, especially on Europa

Using Bulk metallic glass to produce the gears of the robots we can reduce the cost2 of the entire process and we can design a new innovative rover without the need for wet lubrication of gears.


Why Bulk Metallic Glass is the ideal material for this application?

BMG doesn't become brittle in extreme cold and it can run without lubricants at -328º F (-200º C). Moreover, its wear resistance under ambient conditions is 60% better than the steel gears currently used on Curiosity rover.


And if you’re asking why (or “how”) Bulk Metallic Glass alloys have all these characteristics, we can answer that it’s all about its randomized atomic structure. “Think about the shape-shifting T-1000 robot in Terminator 2 and you’re pretty close” as Science Alert 3 wrote.

If you want to discover more about BMG, contact us or read our website: BMG, or https://www.bulkmetallicglass.it/, is the force of our time.


1
NASA website, “Metallic Glass Gears Make for Graceful Robots”, November 29, 2016, link: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/metallic-glass-gears-make-for-graceful-robots


2Douglas C. Hofmann, Raul Polit-Casillas, Scott N. Roberts, John-Paul Borgonia,

Robert P. Dillon, Evan Hilgemann, Joanna Kolodziejska, Lauren Montemayor,

Jong-ook Suh, Andrew Hoff, Kalind Carpenter, Aaron Parness, William L. Johnson,

Andrew Kennett, BrianWilcox, “Castable Bulk Metallic Glass Strain Wave Gears: Towards Decreasing the Cost of High-Performance Robotics”, published on Scientific Reports, Novembre, 24, 2016, link: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep37773


3David Nield “NASA Is Developing Metallic Glass to Make Better Robot Astronauts”, Decembre, 2, 2016, on Science Alert, link:  https://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-is-developing-metallic-glass-to-improve-its-robot-astronauts


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