Features

Vote for Tech Briefs 22nd Annual Readers' Choice Awards

Each December, we ask our readers to cast their vote for the annual NASA Tech Briefs’ Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards. Each month, our editors choose a Product of the Month that has exceptional technical merit and practical value for our design engineering readers.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Design processes, Product development
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High-Resolution Surface Measurement

Inspectors who are assessing the severity of defects and the dimensions of small features on precision machined surfaces are limited by the capabilities of existing measurement techniques. A new type of instrument has been developed that enables direct, non-contact inspection of precision surfaces in shop floor environments. By combining the resolution of optical techniques with the portability of a handheld gauge, the new technology gives inspectors an important tool for finding and quantifying critical features on machined components.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Test & Measurement, Measurements, Fiber optics, Tools and equipment, Inspections
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Optical Fiber Sensors for Infrastructure Monitoring

Virtually every type of public infrastructure — including bridges, pipelines, tunnels, foundations, roadways, dams, etc. — is subject to factors that can degrade it or lead to malfunctions. These structural problems can be the result of deterioration, improper construction methods, seismic activity, or nearby construction work. Although electrical strain gauges have long been used for monitoring structural changes, they sometimes lack the durability and integrity necessary to provide accurate, actionable information over extended periods.

Posted in: Articles, Optics, Test & Measurement, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Inspections, Roads and highways
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ECG Small Signal General and Analysis

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is the most common way to identify various ailments, especially when the ailment is related to the heart. To perform an ECG, the medical personnel places the leads on the patient’s skin. The leads measure the heart’s electrical activity of one heartbeat cycle and record it as a continuous line tracing on paper to produce a graph. The ECG signal may indicate:

Posted in: Articles, Diagnostics, Medical, Monitoring, Test & Measurement, Oscilloscopes, Cardiovascular system, Medical equipment and supplies
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A 40-Year Legacy and Excitement for the Future

As I approach retirement after 40 years as CEO of National Instruments (NI), I am reminded of the great progress and innovations the test and measurement industry has witnessed over that time. We have gone from an industry driven by vacuum tube technology in the era of General Radio, to a time where the transistor ruled with Hewlett-Packard, to today where software truly is the instrument — a transition that NI helped shepherd.

Posted in: Articles, Software, Test & Measurement, Measurements, People and personalities, Technical review
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System Recycles and Purifies Large Volumes of Helium for SLS

Helium reclamation system VACCO Industries South El Monte, CA 626-443-7121www.VACCO.com

Recyling and purifying high-flow helium allows uninterrupted testing of high-volume, high-pressure-drop Space Launch System (SLS) main engine purge regulators and relief valves. Large-scale helium reclamation is a process that purifies used atmospheric-pressure helium to mil-spec levels, and compresses it to high pressures for reuse in component testing. The key is cryogenic purification with a molecular sieve to remove water, volatile organic compounds, oxygen, nitrogen, and other impurities to achieve 99.995% pure helium.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Aerospace, Recycling Technologies, Recycling, Gases, Launch vehicles
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Custom Machines Create Engine Lip Skins on Boeing Aircraft

MJC Engineering, a custom machine tool builder in Huntington Beach, CA, specializes in metal-spinning machines for such applications as sheet spinning, flow forming, wheel spinning, and rotary forging. The company was commissioned to build a series of metal-spinning machines for GKN for use at its plants in Camarillo, CA and Orangeburg, SC. These machines produce lip skins for the engine housings on Boeing 777X and 737MAX aircraft. Using CNC from Siemens Industry (Elk Grove Village, IL) and robotic handling technology — in addition to its proprietary servopump-controlled Green Power™ hydraulic power unit that saves up to 40% on energy — the MJC team devised a unique solution to an engineering challenge brought to them by GKN.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Aviation, Motion Control, CAD, CAM, and CAE, Forming, Manufacturing equipment and machinery, Robotics, Commercial aircraft
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Automating Roadbed Testing Before Paving

The normal road construction process involves subgrade (the existing soil) preparation followed by placement of an aggregate layer, and then the pavement surface layer (asphalt or concrete). In practice, most highways are designed using a set of assumptions that is sufficiently conservative to ensure that the roadway will meet its minimum specifications over its design life. The cost of the pavement layer can be optimized by testing the firmness of the prepared roadbed before paving. The testing process validates the basic design assumptions, and enables the amount of pavement to be tailored or optimized for each segment of the road. Ingios Geotechnics (Northfield, MN) was formed to develop and manufacture equipment to automate the process.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Automotive, Test & Measurement, Product development, Automation, Test procedures, Roads and highways, Construction vehicles and equipment
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Editor's Choice: December 2016

Aerofoam composite insulation combines a polymer foam with a unique inorganic filler in a way that maximizes thermal performance while maintaining mechanical performance, chemical resistance, fire resistance, and acoustic insulation capabilities. Applications include construction, consumer appliances, transportation, electronics, healthcare, industrial equipment, and applications in harsh environments. To find out more, click here.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace
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Magnets From a 3D Printer

Manufacturing strong magnets isn’t a problem; however, it is difficult to produce a permanent magnet with a magnetic field of a specific pre-determined shape. Now, thanks to a new solution devised at the Technical University in Vienna (TU Wien), permanent magnets can be produced in complex forms and customized magnetic fields using a 3D printer.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace
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