Robotic Arm on NASA Mars Rover Showcases COSMOS Analysis Software.
by High-Tech Writers | Submitted Thursday Jan 29, 2009 [06:15 PM]
Design engineers used SolidWorks' integrated finite element analysis application to shave weight off arm while maintaining its strength. The NASA "Spirit" rover's robotic arm performed flawlessly when it deployed from its rover mount and positioned instruments for their first measurements on Mars partly because engineers tested its design with COSMOSWorks(TM) finite element analysis (FEA) software before the rocket blasted off for the red planet.
Alliance Spacesystems, Inc., (ASI) of Pasadena, Calif., used COSMOSWorks finite element analysis FEA software to calculate the delicate balance of strength and lightness the robotic arm needed to perform its mission on Mars. The arm is one meter (three feet) long and weighs 3.7 kilograms (7.7 pounds). It has five actuators with rotating joints and an assembly at the end for holding instruments. The arm needed enough mass and strength to do its work - such as operating instruments and collecting samples - in the Martian atmosphere's high winds and extreme temperatures. However, it also had to be light and compact enough to meet NASA's strict weight and space requirements. ASI engineers used COSMOS(TM) software throughout the development process to test their designs, which eliminated the time and expense of building physical prototypes. COSMOS is integrated with SolidWorks(R) 3D mechanical design software, which is ASI's primary design tool.
"We never could have optimized our design so precisely in such a short time without COSMOS," said ASI Chief Engineer Jim Staats. "Building physical prototypes or using a very complicated application meant for specially trained analysts would have slowed us down too much. COSMOS was easy enough to learn so that everyone in the design cycle could use it, and powerful enough so we could trust its results."
COSMOSWorks is a 3D analysis application for virtual testing of parts and assemblies. It shows engineers how their designs will behave as physical objects, testing factors such as material stress and heat conduction. COSMOSWorks gives engineers high-end, easy-to-use analysis tools at a lower cost than competing applications.
"Could we ask for a better test of COSMOS' value?" said Suchit Jain, vice president of analysis products at SolidWorks. "The robotic arm has to endure one of the harshest environments imaginable, which leaves no room for error. In the short time it took them to learn COSMOS, ASI's engineers gained a tool for fine-tuning their designs throughout the process so they could strike the balance between weight and durability without sacrificing production deadlines. The ultimate proof was what happened on Mars."
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