Manufacturing & Prototyping

Repairing Chipped Silicide Coatings on Refractory Metal Substrates

Two methods have been demonstrated to be feasible. The space shuttle orbiter’s reaction control system (RCS) is a series of small thrusters that use hypergolic fuels to orient the orbiter in space. The RCS thrusters are constructed from a special niobium-based alloy — the C-103. This alloy retains excellent mechanical properties from cryogenic temperature all the way up to 2,500 °F (1,370 °C). Despite its excellent, high-temperature properties, C-103 is susceptible to rapid oxidation at elevated temperatures. Were the naked C-103 alloy exposed to the operational thruster environment, it would rapidly oxidize, at least losing all of its structural integrity, or, at worst, rapidly “burning.” Either failure would be catastrophic. To prevent this rapid oxidation during thruster firing, the RCS thrusters are coated with a silicide-based protective coating — the R512a. Over time, this protective coating becomes weathered and begins to develop chips. Launch Commit Criteria limit the diameter and depth of an acceptable pit; otherwise, the thruster must be removed from the orbiter — a very costly, time-consuming procedure. The authors have developed two methods to repair damaged R512a coatings on C-103.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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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.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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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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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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Automated Low-Gravitation Facility Would Make Optical Fibers

A report describes a proposed automated facility that would be operated in outer space to produce high-quality optical fibers from fluoride-based glasses, free of light-scattering crystallites that form during production in normal Earth gravitation. Before launch, glass preforms would be loaded into a mechanism that would later dispense them. A dispensed preform would be melted, cooled to its glass-transition temperature rapidly enough to prevent crystallization, cooled to ambient temperature, then pushed into a preform tip heater, wherein it would be reheated to the softening temperature. A robotic manipulator would touch a fused-silica rod to the softened glass to initiate pulling of a fiber. The robot would pull the fiber to an attachment on a take-up spool, which would thereafter be turned to pull the fiber. The diameter of the fiber would depend on the pulling speed and the viscosity of the glass at the preform tip. Upon depletion of a preform, the robot would place the filled spool in storage and position an empty spool to pull a fiber from a new preform. Pulling would be remotely monitored by a video camera and restarted by remote command if a break in the fiber were observed.

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Pulse-Flow Microencapsulation System

Microcapsules are produced continuously under controlled, sterile conditions. The pulse-flow microencapsulation system (PFMS) is an automated system that continuously produces a stream of liquid-filled microcapsules for delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissues. Prior microencapsulation systems have relied on batch processes that involve transfer of batches between different apparatuses for different stages of production followed by sampling for acquisition of quality-control data, including measurements of size. In contrast, the PFMS is a single, microprocessor- controlled system that performs all processing steps, including acquisition of quality-control data. The quality-control data can be used as real-time feedback to ensure the production of large quantities of uniform microcapsules.

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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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