Manufacturing & Prototyping

Pulse-Flow Microencapsulation System

Microcapsules are produced continuously under controlled, sterile conditions. The pulse-flow microencapsulation system (PFMS) is an automated system that continuously produces a stream of liquid-filled microcapsules for delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissues. Prior microencapsulation systems have relied on batch processes that involve transfer of batches between different apparatuses for different stages of production followed by sampling for acquisition of quality-control data, including measurements of size. In contrast, the PFMS is a single, microprocessor- controlled system that performs all processing steps, including acquisition of quality-control data. The quality-control data can be used as real-time feedback to ensure the production of large quantities of uniform microcapsules.

Posted in: Briefs

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Automated Low-Gravitation Facility Would Make Optical Fibers

A report describes a proposed automated facility that would be operated in outer space to produce high-quality optical fibers from fluoride-based glasses, free of light-scattering crystallites that form during production in normal Earth gravitation. Before launch, glass preforms would be loaded into a mechanism that would later dispense them. A dispensed preform would be melted, cooled to its glass-transition temperature rapidly enough to prevent crystallization, cooled to ambient temperature, then pushed into a preform tip heater, wherein it would be reheated to the softening temperature. A robotic manipulator would touch a fused-silica rod to the softened glass to initiate pulling of a fiber. The robot would pull the fiber to an attachment on a take-up spool, which would thereafter be turned to pull the fiber. The diameter of the fiber would depend on the pulling speed and the viscosity of the glass at the preform tip. Upon depletion of a preform, the robot would place the filled spool in storage and position an empty spool to pull a fiber from a new preform. Pulling would be remotely monitored by a video camera and restarted by remote command if a break in the fiber were observed.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Techniques for Connecting Superconducting Thin Films

Junctions can be tailored to obtain desired levels of electrical resistance. Several improved techniques for connecting superconducting thin films on substrates have been developed. The techniques afford some versatility for tailoring the electronic and mechanical characteristics of junctions between superconductors in experimental electronic devices. The techniques are particularly useful for making superconducting or alternatively normally conductive junctions (e.g., Josephson junctions) between patterned superconducting thin films in order to exploit electron quantum-tunneling effects.

Posted in: Briefs

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Versatile Friction Stir Welding/Friction Plug Welding System

A single system could perform any FSW or FPW operation. A proposed system of tooling, machinery, and control equipment would be capable of performing any of several friction stir welding (FSW) and friction plug welding (FPW) operations. These operations would include the following:

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Solving Complex Engineering Challenges of Large Composite Aerostructures

Large-scale composite parts present unique design and manufacturing challenges in aerospace. Composites are becoming the material of choice for the manufacture of large, complex aerostructures. The aft section of the jumbo Airbus A380 and the wings of the military transport Airbus A400, for example, are all made of carbon-fiber composites. Boeing, for the first time, is building an all-composite airframe and wings for its groundbreaking 787 airliner. Because of these and other recent manufacturing achievements, there is little doubt that composite materials will be used extensively in many future aircraft programs — from wide-body jets and commercial airliners to regional, business, and “very light” airplanes.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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