Manufacturing & Prototyping

Solid Freeform Fabrication of Composite-Material Objects

Parts specified by CAD data files could be fabricated as needed. Composite solid freeform fabrication (C-SFF) or composite layer manufacturing (CLM) is an automated process in which an advanced composite material (a matrix reinforced with continuous fibers) is formed into a freestanding, possibly complex, three-dimensional object. In CLM, there is no need for molds, dies, or other expensive tooling, and there is usually no need for machining to ensure that the object is formed to the desired net size and shape.

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Rapid Injection Molding Offers Alternative to Conventional Prototyping

Rapid injection molding produces a fully functional part from a 3D CAD model. Now more than ever, technological advancements drive the product design process.Increasingly powerful CAD programs allow more complex product designs, which in turn drive the demand for more complex prototypes. At the same time,fast-moving competitive markets require frequent design changes, shorter lead times, and tighter budgets. In short,prototyping must be faster, better, and less expensive.

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Process for Making Single-Domain Magnetite Crystals

Crystals can be chemically pure and free of defects. A process for making chemically pure, single-domain magnetite crystals substantially free of structural defects has been invented as a byproduct of research into the origin of globules in a meteorite found in Antarctica and believed to have originated on Mars. The globules in the meteorite comprise layers of mixed (Mg, Fe, and Ca) carbonates, magnetite, and iron sulfides. Since the discovery of the meteorite was announced in August 1996, scientists have debated whether the globules are of biological origin or were formed from inorganic materials by processes that could have taken place on Mars. While the research that led to the present invention has not provided a definitive conclusion concerning the origin of the globules, it has shown that globules of a different but related chemically layered structure can be grown from inorganic ingredients in a multistep precipitation process.

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A New Process for Fabricating Random Silicon Nanotips

This process is relatively simple and inexpensive. An improved process for the fabrication of random arrays of silicon nanotips has been demonstrated to be feasible. Relative to other such processes, this process offers advantages of low cost and simplicity. Moreover, this process can readily be combined with other processes used to fabricate integrated circuits and other monolithic silicon structures.

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Resin-Transfer-Molding of a Tool Face

A resin-transfer-molding (RTM) process has been devised for fabricating a matrix/graphite-cloth composite panel that serves as tool face for manufacturing other composite panels. Heretofore, RTM has generally been confined to resins with viscosities low enough that they can readily flow through interstices of cloth. The present process makes it possible to use a high-temperature, more-viscous resin required for the tool face. First, a release layer and then a graphite cloth are laid on a foam pattern that has the desired contour. A spring with an inside diameter of 3/8 in. (˜9.5 mm) is placed along the long dimension of the pattern to act as a conduit for the resin. Springs with an inside diameter of 1/4 in. (˜6.4 mm) are run off the larger lengthwise spring for distributing the resin over the tool face. A glass cloth is laid on top to act as breather. The whole layup is vacuum-bagged. Resin is mixed and made to flow under vacuum assistance to infiltrate the layup through the springs. The whole process takes less than a day, and the exposure of personnel to resin vapors is minimized.

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Automated Rapid Prototyping of 3D Ceramic Parts

Unlike in prior rapid-prototyping processes, there is no manual stacking of sheets. An automated system of manufacturing equipment produces three-dimensional (3D) ceramic parts specified by computational models of the parts. The system implements an advanced, automated version of a generic rapid-prototyping process in which the fabrication of an object having a possibly complex 3D shape includes stacking of thin sheets, the outlines of which closely approximate the horizontal cross sections of the object at their respective heights. In this process, the thin sheets are made of a ceramic precursor material, and the stack is subsequently heated to transform it into a unitary ceramic object.

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Templates for Fabricating Nanowire/Nanoconduit-Based Devices

Prior templating processes are being extended to finer spatial resolutions. An effort is underway to develop processes for making templates that could be used as deposition molds and etching masks in the fabrication of devices containing arrays of nanowires and/or nanoconduits. Examples of such devices include thermoelectric devices, nerve guidance scaffolds for nerve repair, photonic-band-gap devices, filters for trapping microscopic particles suspended in liquids, microfluidic devices, and size-selective chemical sensors. The technology is an extension of previous work conducted by JPL, UCSD (University of California, San Diego), and Paradigm Optics Inc., which developed a process to fabricate macroporous scaffolds for spinal-cord repair.

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