Manufacturing & Prototyping

Products of Tomorrow: April 2015

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today. This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. If you are interested in licensing the technologies described here, use the contact information provided. To learn about more available technologies, visit the NASA Technology Transfer Portal at http://technology.nasa.gov.

Posted in: Articles, Products, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Joining & Assembly, Optical Components, Optics

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Precision Measurement and Inspection Ensure Quality of SLS Rocket Panels

Reverse engineering and inspection software Verisurf Software Anaheim, CA 714-970-1683 www.verisurf.com In spaceflight, the first eight minutes are critical. This is when the greatest opposing forces of thrust and gravity are impacting the launch vehicle. The new NASA Space Launch System (SLS) will weigh 5.5 million pounds at liftoff, or roughly the weight of eight fully loaded 747 jets. Everything comes down to weight and the integrity of design and fabrication to insure success. Today, it costs $10,000 to send one pound of payload into orbit; since the entire launch vehicle makes the trip to low-Earth orbit, its net weight is a big consideration. The lighter the launch vehicle, the greater the payload can be.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Articles, Lasers & Laser Systems, Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Mathematical/Scientific Software

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Lunar Cold Trap Contamination by Landing Vehicles

Software and methods are developed to assess the magnitude and distribution of lunar surface contamination caused by the engine exhaust of a landing vehicle. John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida The emerging interest in lunar mining poses a threat of contamination to pristine craters at the lunar poles, which act as cold traps for water, and may harbor other valuable minerals. Lunar Prospector type missions will be looking for volatile (molecular) compounds that may be masked by the exhaust gases from landing vehicle engines. The possible self-contamination of the landing site could negate the scientific value of the soil samples taken in the vicinity of the landing site. Self-contamination may also lead to false-positive readings of resources available on the lunar surface. This innovation addresses the software and methods needed to assess the magnitude and distribution of lunar surface contamination caused by the engine exhaust of landing vehicles on known or planned descent trajectories.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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PLC-Based Robotic Controls Versus OEM Robotic Controls

As more manufacturing facilities and distribution centers discover the benefits of robotic material handling solutions, the decision of how best to control the robot must be made. While robot original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer their own tightly integrated controller, recent developments have enabled control by a Programmable Logic Controller, or PLC. For facilities where PLC-based controls are already used in other machine control applications, the benefits of using one for the robot as well may be a wiser choice than the OEM controller. Let’s review PLC-based robotic control to help you determine if it’s the best choice for your application.

Posted in: Articles, Industrial Controls & Automation, Robotics

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Fabrication of Single-Mode, Distributed-Feedback, Interband Cascade Lasers

Applications exist in the oil and gas industry, automobile emissions monitors, breath analyzers, and fire detection equipment. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Type-II interband cascade lasers (ICLs) based on the GaSb material system represent an enabling technology for laser absorption spectroscopy in the 3-to-5-μm wavelength range. Instruments operating in this spectral regime can precisely match strong absorption lines of several gas molecules of interest in atmospheric science and environmental monitoring, specifically methane, ethane, other alkanes, and inorganic gases. Compared with non-semiconductor-based laser technologies, ICLs can be made more compact and power efficient, ultimately leading to more portable, robust, and manufacturable spectroscopy instruments.

Posted in: Briefs, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optics, Photonics

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Developing Ceramic-Like Bulk Metallic Glass Gears

This technology has applications in gears, bearings, and gearboxes for automotive, spacecraft, and robotics. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California This invention describes systems and methods for implementing bulk metallic glass-based (BMG) macroscale gears with high wear resistance. This invention creates bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) with selected mechanical properties that are very similar to ceramics, such as high strength and resistance to wear, but without high melting temperatures. Ceramics are high-strength, hard materials that are typically used for their extremely high melting temperatures. Because of their extreme hardness, ceramics are optimal materials for making gears, due to their low wear loss. Unfortunately, ceramics suffer from low fracture toughness (typically <1 MPa·m1/2), and their high melting temperatures prevent them from being cast into net-shaped parts. Ceramic gears, for example, must be ground to a final shape at great expense.

Posted in: Briefs, Ceramics, Metals

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Your Turn to Create the Future

The 13th annual Create the Future Design Contest (www.createthefuturecontest.com), sponsored by COMSOL and Mouser Electronics, and produced by Tech Briefs Media Group, is open for entries. The contest recognizes outstanding innovations in product design worldwide, awarding a Grand Prize of $20,000 USD. There is no cost to enter.

Posted in: Articles, UpFront

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