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Robotics and EMC Engineering

I learned about a new robot from Boston Dynamics through IEEE Spectrum called Petman1. Is this the future of humanity?

It got me thinking about how both EMC and product safety is a critical aspect of robotic engineering to prevent a real “Terminator” from becoming deployed by those seeking harm to others. Robotic engineering is a sub-field of mechanical engineering. To develop a robot, a combination of computer science, mechanical/robotic designers, industrial control and sensor development, EMC and safety engineers must work as a team, not as an individual specialist but with a wide skill set and knowledge in more than one area of engineering.

Robotic engineers design tools for a specific application. We currently find robots mainly in manufacturing such as the automotive industry, but in recent years there has been rapid expansion of research and engineering in agricultural production, mining, nuclear power-plant maintenance, household support and a variety of other uses. Applications include medical and military in addition to vehicles capable of piloting themselves on other planets. Twenty years from now, robots will be employed in a vast range of new activities, some of which we have yet to define. Engineers who best anticipate the needs of humanity related to robotic engineering will be extremely successful. The key to success is being able to work in teams with each team member having specialized skills. This includes both EMC and safety.

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A Dash of Maxwell’s: A Maxwell’s Equations Primer – Part Two

Maxwell’s Equations are eloquently simple yet excruciatingly complex. Their first statement by James Clerk Maxwell in 1864 heralded the beginning of the age of radio and, one could argue, the age of modern electronics.

The key item to remember when designing robots in the future, as they become a greater part of our lives, is ensuring that electromagnetic transients from high-power communication systems (radios), a fast transient/burst or surge event that could cause functional disruption, component failure that prevents a robot from shutting down, software glitches, plus functional safety needs to be addressed ahead of time should an abnormal condition develop that could cause harm or death to those in the vicinity of the robot.

In the future, robots will have a high level of intelligence, such as feeling and emotions, or the ability to make a rational decision on their own. To minimize weight and cost, construction material is moving toward composites that do not provide shielding related to emissions and immunity. This poses a problem for EMC compliance. If the robot catches on fire will it be able to self-extinguish the fire before causing a major situation to develop? The manner in which we integrate EMC and product safety may override functionality. The Bionic Leg from Tibion (Figure 1) used to help stroke victims learn to walk again during physical therapy must never malfunction under a transient event.

1205 Future fig1

Figure 1: Bionic leg (photo courtesy Tibion)

The future of robotic engineering is exciting, especially for EMC and product safety engineers. favicon

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author_montrose-mark Mark I. Montrose
is an EMC consultant with Montrose Compliance Services, Inc. having 30 years of applied EMC experience. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the IEEE (Division VI Director) and is a long term past member of the IEEE EMC Society Board of Directors as well as Champion and first President of the IEEE Product Safety Engineering Society. He provides professional consulting and training seminars worldwide and can be reached at

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