NSF Grant Awarded to Professor McCarthy for Research in Advanced Degree Polynomial Systems

Research to help improve general movement and reliability in machine activity

Research to help improve general movement and reliability in machine activity 

October 18, 2005 -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently granted Professor J. Michael McCarthy $299,965 to support his ongoing research project, focusing on the solution of ultra-high degree polynomial systems found in the synthesis of configuration manifolds for serial chains, which will ultimately help improve the general movement, mobility, and reliability in the design of new machine systems.

This three-year grant will assist McCarthy, professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering, with the polynomial systems his research team is analyzing and working to solve, directly impacting the ability to devise products with controlled spatial movement.

“For example, there is increasing demand for specialized movement in automotive applications, ranging from suspensions to doors, and perhaps even cup holders, where the device is to move in three dimensional space, rotate in various directions, and execute all this in a prescribed, reliable way,” McCarthy explained.

He said his group is working with polynomial equations of extremely high degrees, and that they have the unique opportunity to use the Supercomputer Center located at UC Irvine’s sister school, UC San Diego, to solve many of their more difficult computations.

McCarthy, who has been conducting research in this area since joining UC Irvine in 1986, said they are working to create an efficient system for specifying and computing these configurations, which will make a fundamental contribution to the development of future computer-aided design systems.  He said their goal is to assist designers in determining the device that provides a desired movement and force transmission capability at the beginning of their project.

“It is relatively easy to envision a process where the designer begins by specifying the task for the device, generates a range of options, and evaluates their capability before deciding to shape parts and create the assemblies. However, in practice this is easier said than done,” McCarthy said.

A result of this research is the integrated software program, Synthetica, which is especially made for the computer-aided-design of spatial linkages and robotic systems.  Synthetica was part of research project completed by McCarthy’s previous doctoral candidates, HaiJun Su, Ph.D., Curtis Collins, Ph.D., and Alba Perez, Ph.D.

The program was described in a paper submitted at the 2002 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Design Engineering Technical Conference (DETC), and won the Mechanical Dynamics Inc. (MDI) - now part of MSC Software - best paper on software.

“By determining of all the roots of these high-degree polynomial systems we obtain thousands of design options for complex design tasks,” McCarthy said.

He explained that the results of these rapid computations will provide powerful interactive design tools, allowing inventors and engineers to vary task requirements and instantly observe changes in design solutions.  Future computer-aided design systems are expected to create mechanical movement as easy as they generate spatial shapes now.

McCarthy’s research team regularly supports local companies in the design of articulated movement, ranging from shape changing wings, down-hole grippers, brake pedal systems, sofa beds, and toy walkers.