Manufacturing & Prototyping

Dual-Polarized W-Band Metal Patch Antenna Element for Phased Array Applications

Interlaced transmit/receive all-metal patch elements eliminate the need for discrete isolators and increase efficiency.

W-band active phased array antennas have a very small inter-element pitch (≈2 mm). In this innovation, instead of trying to integrate isolators into the unit cell to separate transmit and receive signals, an interlaced triangular grid of metal patch elements has been developed. The isolation between transmit elements and receive elements has been demonstrated to be on the order of 25 dB or more, precluding the need for discrete isolator circuits. Using metal patch technology, the element and associated interconnect loss has been demonstrated to be 0.5 dB at 94 GHz, which represents an efficiency of 89%.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Antennas, Metals
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High-Temperature Superconducting Bolometric Devices on Amorphous Silicon Nitride Membranes

Applications include defense-related infrared launch detection and night vision.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

There has been a great deal of interest in building bolometers from hightemperature superconductors due to their high transition temperatures and the associated ease of cooling. High-temperature superconducting (high Tc) bolometers are difficult to fabricate because the standard method of thermal isolation is not compatible with these materials. A method is described that allows a standard thermal isolation technique (using amorphous silicon nitride membranes) to be used with high-temperature superconductors.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fabrication, Conductivity
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Uniformly Etched Lateral Gratings Applied to Pre-existing Ridge Waveguides

New technology is 100 times smaller and has fewer components with possibly the same performance.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

There is great difficulty in implementing lateral gratings in GaSb-based lasers. Commercially, single-frequency GaSb lasers have been fabricated using metal gratings deposited laterally to the ridge-waveguide (RWG) stripe. The disadvantage of this is that the laser performance is compromised by additional optical loss due to radiation absorption by the metal. Fabricating lasers in this way limits the potential for high-power performance. A better method is to etch gratings into the semiconductor, but generally, patterning these grating structures is difficult because of nonuniformity of the grating pattern and etching difficulty due to sub-micrometer dimensions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Waveguides, Fabrication, Metals
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High-Precision Thin Film Metal Liftoff Technique

This process can be used by industries that need to fabricate microelectronic devices and superconducting sensors.

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

The objective of this work was to develop a thin film metal liftoff process that would allow one to accurately pattern two-micron-wide (or wider) features. The goal of this innovation was to pattern thin metal films on silicon substrates. The thin metal films can be deposited using physical vapor deposition techniques. The metallic films to be lifted off were deposited via DC magnetron sputtering, in which the mean free path of the metal atoms to be deposited is on the order of one micron. Thus, the deposited metal could conformally coat structures to fill in gaps that were greater than approximately one micron tall.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Metals, Polymers
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Process for 3D Printer Filament Fabrication

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Conventional filament extrusion processes are unsuitable for recycling materials on the International Space Station due to requirements for continuous monitoring and tuning, as well as poor filament dimensional control. The Positrusion process recycles scrap or waste thermoplastics into filament for 3D fused filament fabrication (FFF) printers.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Recycling, Fabrication, Plastics
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Method for Decreasing Additive Manufacturing Build Times Using Arrays of Multiple Deposition Heads

3D printing several parts simultaneously enables increased speed for mass production.

Additive manufacturing (AM, also informally known as 3D printing) is a relatively new process for fabricating net- shaped parts from a computer-generated drawing. The inherent problem with using AM in mass production is the slow build times for each part. Because parts must be built layer by layer, the build time cannot be dramatically increased. The build time is limited by the physical melting and consolidation of plastic or metal, which cannot be dramatically speeded up, and the velocity of the build head, which is limited by the mechanical motion mechanism. One solution to the inherently slow build times is to replicate the building head, while replicating as few of the other machine components as possible. Utilizing this technique, the fabrication time per part can be reduced by the number of simultaneous building heads, which may make the AM process suitable for some mass production.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Manufacturing processes
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Electropolishing in Pneumatics and Hydraulics

This single-process finishing method can be employed for virtually any metal alloy.

Able Electropolishing, Chicago, Illinois

Manufacturing reliable, high-performing parts and components that have extended lifecycles is crucial for the pneumatics and hydraulics industry. From springs to fittings, the performance of each these manufactured parts and components is essential to the operation of machinery used in a variety of disciplines in the pneumatics and hydraulics industry. When reliability, functionality, performance, and life of metal parts are paramount, electropolishing is a single-process metal finishing method that effectively meets the challenges.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Metal finishing, Hydraulic systems, Pneumatic systems
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Reusable Integrated Instrument Control and Computing Platform

This reusable hardware/software platform has applications in embedded systems and digital signal processing applications in small spacecraft, airborne avionics, and instrument electronics.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

ISAAC (Instrument Shared Artifact for Computing) offers adaptability, computation power, I/O bandwidth, digital interface standards, and data processing capability in a single, common, low-mass/power, and small-form-factor platform with significantly reduced, nonrecurring cost and risk to Earth Science instruments such as SMAP/HYDROS and other NASA/JPL planetary exploration instruments with diverse requirements. This platform has six key components:

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Computer software and hardware, Data management, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Design and Engineering of Process Plants Based on the “Lego Principle”

Users can add automation modules or switch them off in line with requirements.

Festo Corporation, Hauppauge, New York

Manufacturers in the process industries need to adjust to smaller batches and different types of product in the same plant. Plants based on the “Lego principle” are designed and engineered precisely to the respective task, whether for the production of a specific product in units per time unit, or for the throughput of a specific substance in a quantity per time unit. The mechanical design of the plant as a whole is geared towards meeting specifications and guaranteeing the required performance data over the projected lifecycle of the plant. The corresponding automation is carried out using management systems comprising process-specific (control) components, operating and monitoring stations, as well as engineering stations. The entire process is centrally controlled by a single management system.

Posted in: Briefs, Industrial Controls & Automation, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Automation, Production engineering
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Electrochemically Enhanced Mechanical Polishing of Optics

A combined method results in a significant reduction of manufacturing time for optical components.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Optical component fabrication using metals or ceramic materials involves many grinding and/or machining and polishing steps to achieve the proper form to the tolerances of imaging or photonic focusing instruments. These instruments range from infrared sensors, through visible and ultraviolet, to X-ray and even thermal neutron focusing. Conventional manufacturing methods require many days or even months of precise polishing to improve selected areas of the component.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Optics, Fabrication, Machining processes, Ceramics, Metals
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