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EL Highlights for July 2011

Engineering Laboratory Contests Put Next-Generation Robot Technologies to the Test

NIST Engineering Laboratory researchers hosted three of the four robotics competitions at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Shanghai, China. The trio of contests was designed to prove the viability of advanced robotics and micro-robotics technologies.  Several EL Intelligent Systems Division staff and associates contributed to ensure the success of these robotic competitions, including Stephen Balakirsky, Tsai Hong, Tommy Chang, Jeremy Marvel, Elena Messina, Joe Falco, Mili Shah, and Charles Hagwood. Stephen Balakirsky served as General Chair of Competitions for the ICRA event.

In the first of two Virtual Manufacturing Automation Competition (VMAC) matches, contestants used open-source evaluation tools to judge a computer plan of a robot picking up boxes of various sizes and weights from a conveyor belt and arranging them on a pallet for shipping. The second half of the VMAC used off-the-shelf computer gaming engines to create simulations that "virtually road tested" a robot team's ability to load trucks with pallets delivered from a warehouse.

In the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge (MMC), seven teams from the United States, Canada, and Europe pitted their miniature athletes – whose dimensions are measured in micrometers (millionths of a meter) – against each other in two events. The mobility challenge required the microbots to navigate a two-dimensional maze about the size of a sesame seed. In the microassembly challenge, the competitors had to put together multiple microscale components in a narrow channel to simulate two applications: operation within a blood vessel by future medical microbots and assembly-based micromanufacturing.

The third competition, the first-ever Solutions in Perception Challenge (SPC), was co-hosted by Willow Garage, a developer of hardware and open-source software for personal robotics applications. Teams in this contest were evaluated on how well their sensing software identified and determined the positions of 35 common household items and 15 manufacturing components. Robust perception is a core skill for next-generation robots to operate successfully in both cluttered and uncluttered environments, such as factory floors, nursing homes, and even disaster sites.

For more details:

Contact: Tsai Hong, (301) 975-3444, and Stephen Balakirsky, (301) 975-4791

Engineering Laboratory Researcher Kang Lee Chairs International Measurement Technology Conference

Engineering Laboratory researcher Kang Lee served as General Chair of the IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference (I2MTC) held on May 9-12 in Hangzhou, China. In addition, Kang served as Master of Ceremony for the opening of the conference.  He also contributed technically to the conference by presenting a tutorial on smart sensors and sensor network standards, presenting two technical papers on research results on wireless sensor network standards, and chairing a technical session on Advanced Sensors and Instrumentation for Healthcare. As Chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Sensor Technology and as a Sensors Council representative, Kang also participated in the Instrumentation and Measurement Society Advisory Committee meeting.

The conference was sponsored by the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society (I&MS) and hosted by Zhejiang University. Technical co-sponsors of the conference included NIST, Tsinghua University, Tianjin University, Southeast University, and Jiangsu Instrument and Control Society.  The conference was attended by more than 300 international attendees from all continents.

The keynote address was given by Dr. Jian Chu, Vice President of Zhejiang University, Director of the Institute of Cyber-Systems and Control, and Deputy Director of National Engineering Research Center for Industrial Automation, China. Dr. Chu spoke about the latest process control technologies, cyber security concerns with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, emerging sensor networking technologies, and relevant standards throughout the world, in particular in China.

Contact: Kang Lee, (301) 975-6604


Engineering Laboratory Works with Standards Developers to Extend International Product Data Standard for Small and Medium Enterprise Use

NIST Engineering Laboratory staff met with international standards developers at the BAE Systems Advanced Technology Center in Filton, UK to work on a new ISO product data standard for model-based engineering as part of the ongoing ISO 10303 standards development efforts. The ISO 10303, commonly known as the Standard for the Exchange of Product model data (STEP), focuses on product data representation to support Computer-Aided Design (CAD)/Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) and Product Data Management (PDM) data exchange, system integration, visualization, and long-term preservation of product information.

A developing STEP specification, ISO Working Draft 10303-242, Managed Model Based 3D Engineering (AP242), combines two widely implemented ISO 10303 standards, one that is primarily supported by the aerospace and defense industries and one that is used primarily in the automotive industry.  A third standard ISO 10303-239(AP239), Product Life Cycle Support (PLCS) has a focus on maintenance of product information throughout the product's life cycle.  Both AP242 and AP 239 standards represent Product Lifecycle Management information, and both include higher-level models that drive their implementations.

Several industry and government STEP stakeholders, including NIST, are working on the harmonization of these standards to ensure that they may be used in concert. Aligning the requirements and implementation forms of AP242 and AP239 will ensure that these standards can be used together to support the entire product lifecycle. The ISO 10303 standard is critical for small business participation in manufacturing. The standard allows small business to use low-end CAD systems that are in some cases one tenth the cost of high-end CAD systems used by large manufacturers. Using STEP, small manufacturers need only maintain a single design system rather than multiple systems when working with multiple original equipment manufacturers.

Contact: Allison Barnard Feeney, 301-975-3181