Manufacturing & Prototyping

Software for Designing Plasma Reactors for Microelectronics

Outer-space plasmas and arc-jet plasmas are well known to many researchers at NASA. Efforts to understand the structures of these plasmas have consumed years of research at various NASA laboratories. Computational modeling of such plasmas involves analyses of multicomponent, multitemperature flows, and many computer codes developed by NASA are available for this purpose. Now, researchers at Ames Research Center have applied their expertise to understand a different kind of plasma — the kind used in manufacturing integrated circuits.

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Gap Welding Preforms

Ribbon RF connections could be made with greater consistency. Small, temporary, disposable inserts, called "gap welding preforms," have been proposed for use in attaching electrically conductive ribbons to radio-frequency (RF) electronic circuits. As explained below, the use of gap welding preforms would help to ensure consistency of the ribbon connections and would reduce the time necessary for making the connections.

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Low-Plasticity Burnishing

Fatigue life and resistance to damage are increased at relatively low cost. Low-plasticity burnishing (LPB) has been devel- oped as an affordable means of imparting residual compressive stresses to surface layers of metal parts (especially engine components) in order to increase their fatigue lives. Heretofore, surface compressive stresses to enhance the fatigue lives have been produced, variously, by shot peening or laser shock peening. Unfortunately, thermal relaxation has been found to result in loss of the needed surface-layer compressive stresses, with consequent shortening of component lives and reduction of engine performances. Hence, what is needed is a means of imparting thermally stable surface compression.

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Improvements in Rapid Prototyping

Molecular structures would be tailored to obtain superior structural properties.Several improvements have been proposed for the fabrication process known as "rapid prototyping." In this process, a model or prototype of a solid object is built up by controlled ejection of molten polymeric material through programmed orifices to form patterned layers. The second layer is deposited on top of the first layer, the third layer is deposited on top of the second layer, and so forth, until the stack of layers reaches the desired final thickness and shape.

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Correlation Spectrometers for Detecting Fires in Aircraft

Products of early stages of com- bustion would be detected with sensitivity and selectivity. Compact, lightweight, sensitive correlation spectrometers for detecting gaseous byproducts of the onset of fire are under devel- opment. These spec- trometers would be installed in aircraft, where early detection of fire could enable crews to respond with timely fire-suppression actions. Correlation spectroscopy involves measurements of absorption spectra of chemical species of interest but is not the same as classic absorption spectroscopy, which has been used for decades for detecting airborne chemicals. Classic absorption spectroscopy involves steadystate techniques that are not suited for rapid detection of compounds of immediate interest that may be present along with other compounds that are not of immediate interest.

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Automated Apparatus for Welding to Seal Pyrotechnic Devices

An automated, remotely controllable apparatus has been developed for resistance welding for hermetic sealing of pyrotechnic devices, as a substitute for special-purpose welding equip- ment that is no longer commercially available. Hermetic sealing of a pyrotechnic device involves a sequence of closely spaced, precise, spot welds made with low heat to minimize the potential of ignition. For safety, the welding must be performed under remote control. The apparatus includes a rotary table with a chuck, in which is mounted a fixture that holds the pyrotechnic device to be welded. The rotary table is programmed to step through appropriate angular increments (e.g., 360° in 1° increments). After each increment, a switch is closed to actuate a solenoid valve to extend a pneumatic cylinder to drive a welding head toward the pyrotechnic device. A spring-loaded electrode in the welding head is forced into contact with the pyrotechnic device with increasing force until a switch closes at a preset contact force, triggering a pulse of welding current through the welding electrode and workpiece with a return path through the welding fixture. The welding head is then retracted, the rotary table steps through the next increment, and the foregoing process is repeated.

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Lithographic Fabrication of Mesoscale Electromagnet Coils

Fabrication should be faster and cheaper than in conventional winding. A partly lithographic method of fabrication is being developed to enable the economical mass production of mesoscale electrically conductive coils for miniature electro- magnets, solenoids, electric motors, and the like. This or a similar method is needed to overcome the limitations of prior techniques:

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