Manufacturing & Prototyping

Damage-Free Finishing of Silicon X-Ray Optics Using Magnetic Field-Assisted Finishing

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Thin, segmented mirrors have been fabricated from monocrystalline silicon blocks. The material is economically viable, and is virtually free of internal stress because of its nearly perfect crystalline structure. The mirror surfaces will first be accurately figured and finished on thick silicon blocks, then sliced off at the desired thickness by wire electro-discharge machining. A finishing process has been conceived in which existing mirror-finishing processes are adapted to be capable of quickly and accurately figuring and finishing damage-free, segmented, monocrystalline silicon mirrors in a cost-efficient manner.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Smart Crucibles and Heat Pipes

Molybdenum and molybdenum alloys are the leading candidates for making the new heat pipe modules. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Near-net-shape vacuum plasma spray (VPS) forming techniques were developed to produce advanced components with internal features such as smart heat pipes and crucibles. The initial results demonstrated the ability to incorporate features such as channels and a porous layer within the wall of a smart crucible.

Posted in: Briefs

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2014 Create the Future Design Contest

The 2014 Create the Future Design Contest – sponsored by COMSOL, Inc., Mouser Electronics, and Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of NASA Tech Briefs) – recognized innovation in product design in seven categories: Aerospace & Defense, Automotive/Transportation, Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery/Automation/Robotics, Medical, and Sustainable Technologies. In this special section, you’ll meet the Grand Prize Winner, as well as the winners and Honorable Mentions in all seven categories, chosen from more than 1,000 new product ideas submitted from 61 countries. To view all of the entries online, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com.

Posted in: Articles

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Engineers Harvest and Print Parts for New Breed of Aircraft

Student interns and engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center rapidly prototyped and redesigned aircraft using 3D-printed parts. The aircraft was custom-built by repurposing surplus Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). By lengthening the wings, the team was able to improve aerodynamic efficiency and help extend the flight time of small, lightweight electric aircraft. The prototype aircraft are constructed using components from Aerovironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye UAVs that NASA acquired from the United States Marine Corps via the General Services Administration's San Francisco office. Unmodified, these small electric aircraft weigh 5.9 pounds, have a 3.75-foot wingspan and twin electric motors, and can carry a one-pound instrument payload for up to an hour. After finalizing designs that featured longer and more slender wings and dual fuselages, the teams printed new parts including wing sections, nose cones, winglets, control surfaces, wing ribs and even propellers using the NASA Ames SpaceShop. The 3-D printed wing sections were reinforced using carbon fiber tubing or aluminum rods to give them extra strength without adding significant weight.Flying as high as 12,500 feet above sea level, multiple small converted Dragon Eye UAVs, including the specialized and highly modified “FrankenEye” platform, will study the chemistry of the eruption plume emissions from Turrialba volcano, near San Jose, Costa Rica. The goal of the activity is to improve satellite data research products, such as computer models of the concentration and distribution of volcanic gases, and transport-pathway models of volcanic plumes. Some volcanic plumes can reach miles above a summit vent, and drift hundreds to thousands of miles from an eruption site and can pose a severe public heath risk, as well as a potent threat to aircraft.SourceAlso: Learn about Real-Time Minimization of Tracking Error for Aircraft Systems.

Posted in: News, Aviation, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Motors & Drives

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2-in-1 Motor Increases Range of Electric Cars

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have invented a 2-in-1 electric motor that increases the range of electric vehicles. The engine integrates the traditional electric motor with the air-conditioning compressor, typically two separate units. This novel, space-saving design allows the use of bigger batteries, which can increase the range of electric vehicles by an additional 15 to 20 percent.

Posted in: News, Energy Efficiency, Motors & Drives, Automotive

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Technology Enables First Test of Actual Turbine Engine Conditions

Because of the difficulty of monitoring turbine engines in operation, most manufacturers test turbine blades either after flight or rely on simulated tests to give them the data on how the various coatings on the blades are performing. Until now, creating an accurate simulation has been out of reach.

Posted in: News, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Monitoring

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3D-Printed Power Inverter Enables Lighter Electric Vehicles

Using 3D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful, and more efficient.At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide, with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials. Power inverters convert direct current into the alternating current that powers the vehicle. The Oak Ridge inverter achieves much higher power density with a significant reduction in weight and volume.Using additive manufacturing, researchers optimized the inverter’s heat sink, allowing for better heat transfer throughout the unit. This construction technique allowed them to place lower-temperature components close to the high-temperature devices, further reducing the electrical losses and reducing the volume and mass of the package.The research group’s first prototype, a liquid-cooled all-silicon carbide traction drive inverter, features 50-percent-printed parts. Initial evaluations confirmed an efficiency of nearly 99 percent, surpassing DOE’s power electronics target and setting the stage for building an inverter using entirely additive manufacturing techniques.Building on the success of this prototype, researchers are working on an inverter with an even greater percentage of 3D-printed parts in commercially available vehicles. SourceAlso: See other Electronics tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Automotive

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