Manufacturing & Prototyping

Fuel Tank for Liquefied Natural Gas

This technology provides increased strength through overwrapped composite materials.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a new composite vessel technology that is suitable for use as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel storage tank for alternative fuel vehicles. This technology uses an improved composite over-wrapped technology to produce a pressure vessel that is simple to use, robust, and capable of withstanding high pressures. It is also lightweight and low cost. This technology shows great potential to help the United States and other countries move toward a cleaner environment while allowing for efficient use of a more natural fuel in many different applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Natural gas, Composite materials, Fuel tanks

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Impact Tester Device

This lightweight instrument is used for investigating structural response.NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a portable device to simulate low-velocity impacts on a material or structure. As composite materials are highly susceptible to damage caused by low-velocity impact, they must be designed and evaluated for structural integrity after these types of impacts. The NASA impactor’s design comprises an exterior tube, an instrumented projectile, a spring to propel the projectile, a spring compression device, a release pin, a wooden spacer/locator block, and an optical sensor. The tube can be handheld or rigidly mounted at any angle such that the impact response can be evaluated at specific positions on the test article. In the current configuration, impact energies between 4 and 40 J (between about 3 and 30 ft.-lbs.) can be obtained. Researchers designed a fully functioning prototype for the NASA Engineering and Safety Centers (NESCs) Composite Crew Module (CCM) program for damage tolerance testing. Both the impact force history and projectile velocity are captured during operation.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Composite materials, Impact tests, Test equipment and instrumentation

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Low-Power-Consumption, Single-Mode Quantum Cascade Lasers Fabricated Without Epitaxial Regrowth

These low-power lasers can be used for spectroscopy instruments in health and safety monitoring, and industrial process monitoring.Quantum cascade (QC) lasers employ intersubband electronic transitions in semiconductor quantum well structures to generate emission at specific engineered wavelengths. QC devices have been particularly successful as mid-infrared emitters in the 4- to 12-μm wavelength range, a spectral regime that is difficult to access with interband diode lasers. As cascade devices, QC lasers can also be designed with many gain stages, which, combined with optimized doping and optical design, has enabled the development of lasers with remarkably high continuous output power (in excess of 1 W). One of the most important applications of mid-infrared QC lasers is quantitative gas detection using absorption spectroscopy, where a single-frequency laser is used to interrogate specific absorption lines of a target compound. While high output power is essential in certain applications, many in situ absorption spectrometers require only milliwatt-level output to effectively measure low levels of compounds of interest with strong absorption lines in the mid-infrared regime.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Semiconductor devices, Spectroscopy, Energy consumption, Gases

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A Versatile Three-Dimensional Printing Approach

This technology can generate integrated circuits, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries.NASA has developed a versatile method and associated apparatus for constructing and using a conductive filament in various applications of 3D printing. It uses an attractive polymer formulation, which exhibits low melting temperature even when combined with conductive material, as the printing filament material. It may be used with a commercial 3D printer to generate custom 3D conductive geometries, such as integrated circuitries, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries. This invention can be used to create conductive, piezoelectric, or multifunctional materials using three-dimensional printing, with relatively low melt or glass transition temperatures. This invention should be useful wherever such materials are needed, with modest fabrication costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Electronic equipment, Additive manufacturing, Fabrication, Conductivity, Polymers

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Puncture-Healing Thermoplastic Resin Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Composites

This technology self-repairs following low- to mid-velocity impacts. A through-transmission C-scan of the healable composite panel shows the material post-impact (top) and post-healing cycle (bottom). NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed carbon fiber reinforced composites with self-healing properties. The initiation and propagation of damage to carbon composites, such as in aircraft structural components, results in component failure. Typical structural repairs result in damaging practices, where material is ground away and holes are drilled to secure patches, which can act as new sites for damage. This technology exhibits effective self-repair that heals quickly following low- to mid-velocity impacts, while retaining structural integrity.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Composite materials, Fibers, Thermoplastics, Durability

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Improved Impact Toughness and Heat Treatment for Cast Aluminum

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center researchers have developed a new, stronger aluminum alloy, ideal for cast aluminum products that have powder or paint-baked thermal coatings. With advanced mechanical properties, the NASA-427 alloy shows greater tensile strength and increased ductility, providing substantial improvement in impact toughness. In addition, this alloy improves the thermal coating process by decreasing the time required for heat treatment. With improvements in both strength and processing time, use of the alloy provides reduced materials and production costs, lower product weight, and better product performance. The superior properties of NASA-427 can benefit many industries, including automotive, where it is particularly well suited for use in aluminum wheels.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Casting, Heat treatment, Aluminum alloys, Coatings, colorants, and finishes

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Dynamically Variable Spot Size Laser System

Applications include aerospace engine repair, medical hardware manufacturing, plastic mold and die restoration, and jewelry manufacturing and repair.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed the handheld laser torch, designed for welding and brazing metals, to repair hard-to-reach Space Shuttle engine nozzles. It incorporates various manual controls and changing lenses to allow the operator to adjust the laser’s power output in real time. The controls and lenses are designed to increase precision, portability, and maneuverability as compared to existing automated lasers and traditional welding techniques such as tungsten inert gas (TIG), metal inert gas (MIG), or gas-tungsten arc welding (GTAW) systems. Proximity sensors with automated shut-off switches also ensure a high level of safety for the user.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Human machine interface (HMI), Welding, Nozzles, Spacecraft

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