Brushless servomotors are essential in NASA applications such as mobile manipulation on rovers and for satellite navigation, control, and positioning. Unlike brushed motors, brushless servomotors have high torque density, add no brush friction, do not generate contaminating dust, and have lifetimes measured in years instead of days. The use of brushless motors however, requires custom, expensive electronics that are often larger than the motors they control. This is especially true for small motors that operate below 100 watts. The proposed snap-in P3 module will support a wide array of these smaller motors.
As machines become more intelligent through embedded processing and sensor fusion we expect them to do more too, improving not only industrial productivity but our quality of life as society ages. While embedded processors and MEMS-based sensors have become tiny, highly effective, and affordable; similar improvements in servomotors have evolved more slowly. At fractional-horsepower levels the power electronics contribute significantly to total bulk and complexity. Providing smaller and more efficient servo electronics enable OEMs to increase the competitiveness of their products. For example, robots can become more agile with additional degrees of freedom and less mass to accelerate. New fuel-cell designs combined with ultra-high motor efficiency will enable affordable prostheses with true dexterity instead of 0 or 1 degree of freedom; and orthotics will begin to assist human motions intelligently, rather than passively bracing.