Manufacturing & Prototyping

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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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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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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