Manufacturing & Prototyping

Spinoff: Wireless Platform Integrates Sensors with Smartphones

The platform, developed using NASA nanotechnology, paved the way for interchangeable smartphone sensors.In 2007, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a call for a sensor that could equip a smartphone with the ability to detect dangerous gases and chemicals, Ames Research Center scientist Jing Li had a ready response. Four years earlier, she led a team that wrote a paper on the use of carbon nanotube sensors for gas and organic vapor detection.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Nanotechnology, Sensors

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Designing for 3D Printing

3D printing has progressed over the past decade to include multimaterial fabrication, enabling production of powerful, functional objects. While many advances have been made, it still has been difficult for non-programmers to create objects made of many materials (or mixtures of materials) without a more user-friendly interface.

Posted in: Articles, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Simulation Software

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Pulsed Ultrasonic Stir Welding System

A solid-state weld process yields better joint quality and longer tool life.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) developed Ultrasonic Stir Welding (USW) to join large pieces of very high-strength metals such as titanium and Inconel. USW, a solid-state weld process, improves current thermal stir welding processes by adding high-power ultrasonic (HPU) energy at 20-kHz frequency. The addition of ultrasonic energy significantly reduces axial, frictional, and shear forces; increases travel rates; and reduces wear on the stir rod, which results in extended stir rod life. The USW process decouples the heating, stirring, and forging elements found in the friction stir welding process, allowing for independent control of each process element and, ultimately, greater process control and repeatability. Because of the independent control of USW process elements, closed-loop temperature control can be integrated into the system so that a constant weld nugget temperature can be maintained during welding.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Method of Heat Treating Aluminum-Lithium Alloy to Improve Formability

This technology can be used in aerospace, recreation, transportation, and other industries where high-strength, lightweight structures are needed.NASA scientists have designed a novel heat treatment process that significantly improves the formability of high-performance aluminum-lithium (Al-Li) 2195 alloy plate stock. The heat treatment process dramatically reduces cracking and also improves the yield and range of product sizes/shapes that can be spin/stretch formed. The improved yields also provide lower costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Fuel Tank for Liquefied Natural Gas

This technology provides increased strength through overwrapped composite materials.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a new composite vessel technology that is suitable for use as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel storage tank for alternative fuel vehicles. This technology uses an improved composite over-wrapped technology to produce a pressure vessel that is simple to use, robust, and capable of withstanding high pressures. It is also lightweight and low cost. This technology shows great potential to help the United States and other countries move toward a cleaner environment while allowing for efficient use of a more natural fuel in many different applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Impact Tester Device

This lightweight instrument is used for investigating structural response.NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a portable device to simulate low-velocity impacts on a material or structure. As composite materials are highly susceptible to damage caused by low-velocity impact, they must be designed and evaluated for structural integrity after these types of impacts. The NASA impactor’s design comprises an exterior tube, an instrumented projectile, a spring to propel the projectile, a spring compression device, a release pin, a wooden spacer/locator block, and an optical sensor. The tube can be handheld or rigidly mounted at any angle such that the impact response can be evaluated at specific positions on the test article. In the current configuration, impact energies between 4 and 40 J (between about 3 and 30 ft.-lbs.) can be obtained. Researchers designed a fully functioning prototype for the NASA Engineering and Safety Centers (NESCs) Composite Crew Module (CCM) program for damage tolerance testing. Both the impact force history and projectile velocity are captured during operation.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Precision Coffeemaker Adapts Brews to Beans and Taste

NASA’s embedded communications technology and PID controllers play key roles in coffee brewing system.Technology often takes circuitous paths. A magnetron developed for precision bombing during World War II led to the microwave oven, and a battery-powered drill created for collecting samples of Moon rock gave birth to the Dustbuster. Likewise, one student’s NASA experience with autonomous robotic vehicles has informed the creation of one of the world’s most sophisticated coffee machines.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Communications, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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