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NASA's glass gears have cracking potential

05 January, 2017

Not only can BMGs allow strain-wave gears to operate at low temperatures, but they can also be produced at a fraction of the cost of their steel versions, without sacrificing any performance. This is potentially game-changing for cutting the cost of robots and other machines that use the gears, because they are often the most expensive components.

“Mass-producing strain-wave gears using BMGs may have a major impact on the consumer robotics market,” Hofmann predicts. “This is especially true for humanoid robots, where gears in the joints can be very expensive but are required to prevent shaking arms. The performance at low temperatures for JPL spacecraft and rovers seems to be a happy added benefit.”

Nasa’s metallic glass gears can operate reliably in extreme cold, without needing any lubricants.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Bulk Metallic Glass Gears project is being funded under Nasa's Game Changing Development Programme, run by its Space Technology Mission Directorate. The programme investigates ideas and approaches that could solve significant technological problems and revolutionise future space activities.

The US researchers have published a pair of papers looking at different ways that BMGs could be used in gears. 

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