Manufacturing & Prototyping

Film/Adhesive Processing Module for Fiber-Placement Processing of Composites

Films, foils, or adhesives may be interleaved while fiber-placing composite material structures. An automated apparatus has been designed and constructed that enables the automated lay-up of composite structures incorporating films, foils, and adhesives during the automated fiberplacement process. This apparatus, denoted a film module, could be used to deposit materials in film or thin sheet form either simultaneously when laying down the fiber composite article or in an independent step. Examples of materials that may be processed with this device include structural core and joining adhesives, permeation barrier films/foils, surfacing films, lightning-strike materials and IVHM (Integral Vehicle Health Monitoring) arrays. The use of this technology will reduce composite fabrication time and will allow for new concepts/ designs to be considered for fiber-placed composite structures.

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Radiation-Shielding Polymer/Soil Composites

Radiation shields could be fabricated in situ at relatively low cost. It has been proposed to fabricate polymer/soil composites primarily from extraterrestrial resources, using relatively lowenergy processes, with the original intended application being that habitat structures constructed from such composites would have sufficient structural integrity and also provide adequate radiation shielding for humans and sensitive electronic equipment against the radiation environment on the Moon and Mars. The proposal is a response to the fact that it would be much less expensive to fabricate such structures in situ as opposed to transporting them from Earth.

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Fabrication of Submillimeter Axisymmetric Optical Components

Surfaces of components can be arbitrarily shaped to optimize spectral responses. It is now possible to fashion transparent crystalline materials into axisymmetric optical components having diameters ranging from hundreds down to tens of micrometers, whereas previously, the smallest attainable diameter was 500 m. A major step in the fabrication process that makes this possible can be characterized as diamond turning or computer numerically controlled machining on an ultrahigh-precision lathe. This process affords the flexibility to make arbitrary axisymmetric shapes that have various degrees of complexity: examples include a flat disk or a torus supported by a cylinder (see figure), or multiple closely axially spaced disks or tori supported by a cylinder. Such optical components are intended mainly for use as whispering-gallery- mode optical resonators in diverse actual and potential applications, including wavelength filtering, modulation, photonic generation and detection of microwaves, and research in quantum electrodynamics and quantum optics.

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Counterrotating-Shoulder Mechanism for Friction Stir Welding

The weights and costs of fixtures for holding workpieces could be reduced. A counterrotating- shoulder mechanism has been proposed as an alternative to the mechanism and fixtures used in conventional friction stir welding. The mechanism would internally react most or all of the forces and torques exerted on the workpiece, making it unnecessary to react the forces and torques through massive external fixtures.

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Strain Gauges Indicate Differential-CTE-Induced Failures

Failures are indicated by changes in slopes of strain versus temperature. A method of detecting mechanical failure induced by variation in temperature at an adhesive bond between two materials that have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTEs) involves monitoring of strain-gauge readings. This method can be regarded as an exploitation of the prior observation that the readings of strain gauges commonly used in tensile and compressive testing of material specimens include features indicative of incremental failures in the specimens. In this method, one or more strain gauges are bonded to either or both of the two materials near the bond between the materials. (The adhesive used to bond the strain gauges would not ordinarily be the same as the one used to bond the two materials). Then strain-gauge readings are recorded as the temperature of the materials is varied through a range of interest. Any significant discontinuity in the slope of the resulting strain-versus- temperature curve(s) is taken to be a qualitative indication of a failure of the bond between the two materials and/or a failure within one of the materials in the vicinity of the bond.

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Core-Cutoff Tool

Damage and waste are reduced. A tool makes a cut perpendicular to the cylindrical axis of a core hole at a predetermined depth to free the core at that depth. The tool does not damage the surrounding material from which the core was cut, and it operates within the core-hole kerf.

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Self-Advancing Step-Tap Drills

It is not necessary to apply axial drilling forces. Self-advancing tool bits that are hybrids of drills and stepped taps make it possible to form threaded holes wider than about 1/2 in. (about 13 mm) without applying any more axial force than is necessary for forming narrower pilot holes. These self-advancing stepped-tap drills were invented for use by space-suited astronauts performing repairs on reinforced carbon/carbon space-shuttle leading edges during space walks, in which the ability to apply axial drilling forces is severely limited. Self-advancing stepped-tap drills could also be used on Earth for making wide holes without applying large axial forces.

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