Manufacturing & Prototyping

Double-Vacuum-Bag Process for Making Resin-Matrix Composites

To prevent formation of voids, volatiles are removed before applying consolidation pressure. A double-vacuum-bag process has been devised as a superior alternative to a single-vacuum-bag process used heretofore in making laminated fiber-reinforced resin-matrix composite-material structural components. This process is applicable to broad classes of high-performance matrix resins — including polyimides and phenolics — that emit volatile compounds (solvents and volatile by-products of resin-curing chemical reactions) during processing. The superiority of the double-vacuum-bag process lies in enhanced management of the volatile compounds. Proper management of volatiles is necessary for making composite material components of high quality: if not removed and otherwise properly managed, volatiles can accumulate in interior pockets as resins cure, thereby forming undesired voids in the finished products.

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Manufacturing Large Membrane Mirrors at Low Cost

Shapes are determined by edge retention fixtures rather than by precise molds. Relatively inexpensive processes have been developed for manufacturing lightweight, wide-aperture mirrors that consist mainly of reflectively coated, edge-supported polyimide membranes. The polyimide and other materials in these mirrors can withstand the environment of outer space, and the mirrors have other characteristics that make them attractive for use on Earth as well as in outer space:

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Artificial Hair Cells for Sensing Flows

Small, robust sensors can be fabricated on a variety of substrates. The purpose of this article is to present additional information about the flow-velocity sensors described briefly in the immediately preceding article. As noted therein, these sensors can be characterized as artificial hair cells that implement an approximation of the sensory principle of flow-sensing cilia of fish: A cilium is bent by an amount proportional to the flow to which it is exposed. A nerve cell at the base of the cilium senses the flow by sensing the bending of the cilium. In an artificial hair cell, the artificial cilium is a microscopic cantilever beam, and the bending of an artificial cilium is measured by means of a strain gauge at its base (see Figure 1).

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Improved Oxygen-Beam Texturing of Glucose-Monitoring Optics

Textures can be more nearly optimized for greater utilization of light. An improved method has been devised for using directed, hyperthermal beams of oxygen atoms and ions to impart desired textures to the tips of polymethylmethacrylate [PMMA] optical fibers to be used in monitoring the glucose content of blood. The improved method incorporates, but goes beyond, the method described in “Texturing Blood- Glucose-Monitoring Optics Using Oxygen Beams” (LEW-17642- 1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 4 (April 2005), page 11a. The basic principle of operation of such a glucose-monitoring sensor is as follows: The textured surface of the optical fiber is coated with chemicals that interact with glucose in such a manner as to change the reflectance of the surface. Light is sent down the optical fiber and is reflected from, the textured surface. The resulting change in reflectance of the light is measured as an indication of the concentration of glucose.

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Tool for Two Types of Friction Stir Welding

The same mechanism could be used for conventional or selfreacting FSW. A tool that would be useable in both conventional and self-reacting friction stir welding (FSW) has been proposed. The tool would embody both a prior tooling concept for self-reacting FSW and an auto-adjustable pin-tool (APT) capability developed previously as an augmentation for conventional FSW.

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Deforming Fibrous Insulating Tiles To Fit Curved Surfaces

Flat billets are heated and pressed gently against curved mold surfaces. A curved tile of refractory silica-fiber-based or alumina-fiber-based thermal-insulation material can be formed from an initially flat billet in a process that includes pressing against a curved mold surface during heating. The mold or tile curvature can be concave or convex. Curved tiles are needed for thermal protection of curved surfaces of spacecraft reentering the terrestrial atmosphere; curved thermal-protection tiles may also be useful on Earth in some industrial applications.

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Micromachining of a Mesoscale Vibratory Gyroscope

High-performance miniature gyroscopes would be fabricated by established micromachining techniques. A micromachining-based fabrication process has been proposed for low-volume production of copies of a mesoscale vibratory gyroscope. The process would include steps of photolithography, metallization, deep reactive-ion etching (RIE), Au/Au thermal-compression bonding, and anodic bonding. In the present state of the art, these process steps are well established and the process as a whole would be considered reproducible.

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