Mechanical Components

Device for Automated Cutting and Transfer of Plant Shoots

This device is simple yet effective. A device that enables the automated cutting and transfer of plant shoots is undergoing development for use in the propagation of plants in a nursery or laboratory. At present, it is standard practice for a human technician to use a knife and forceps to cut, separate, and grasp a plant shoot. The great advantage offered by the present device is that its design and operation are simpler than would be those of a device based on the manual cutting/separation/grasping procedure. [The present device should not be confused with a prior device developed for partly the same purpose and described in "Compliant Gripper for a Robotic Manipulator" (NPO-21104), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 27, No. 3 (March 2003), page 59.]

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Neutral-Axis Springs for Thin-Wall Integral Boom Hinges

A document proposes the use of neutral-axis springs to augment the unfolding torques of hinges that are integral parts of thin-wall composite-material booms used to deploy scientific instruments from spacecraft. A spring according to the proposal would most likely be made of metal and could be either flat or curved in the manner of a measuring tape. Under the unfolded, straight-boom condition, each spring would lie along the neutral axis of a boom. The spring would be connected to the boom by two supports at fixed locations on the boom. The spring would be fixed to one of the supports and would be free to slide through the other support. The width, thickness, and material of the spring would be chosen to tailor the spring stiffness to provide the desired torque margin to assist in deployment of the boom. The spring would also contribute to the stiffness of the boom against bending and torsion, and could contribute some damping that would help suppress unwanted vibrations caused by the deployment process or by external disturbances.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Shields for Enhanced Protection Against High-Speed Debris

A report describes improvements over the conventional Whipple shield (two thin, spaced aluminum walls) for protecting spacecraft against high-speed impacts of orbiting debris. The debris in question arise mainly from breakup of older spacecraft. The improved shields include exterior "bumper" layers composed of hybrid fabrics woven from combinations of ceramic fibers and high-density metallic wires or, alternatively, completely metallic outer layers composed of high-strength steel or copper wires. These shields are designed to be light in weight, yet capable of protecting against orbital debris with mass densities up to about 9 g/cm3, without generating damaging secondary debris particles. As yet another design option, improved shields can include sparsely distributed wires made of shape-memory metals that can be thermally activated from compact storage containers to form shields of predetermined shape upon arrival in orbit. The improved shields could also be used to augment shields installed previously.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post

Modifications should lead to greater unit-to-unit consistency. A modified design and fabrication sequence has been devised to improve the performance of a cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscope that includes an axial rod or post rigidly attached to the center of the cloverleaf structure. The basic concepts of cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscopes, without and with rods or posts, were described in two prior articles in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 1997): "Micromachined Planar Vibratory Microgyroscopes" (NPO-19713), page 68 and "Planar Vibratory Microgyroscope: Alternative Configuration" (NPO-19714), page 70. As described in more detail in the second-mentioned prior article, the cloverleaf-shaped structure and the rod or post are parts of a vibratory element that senses rotation via the effect of the Coriolis force upon its vibrations.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Microgyroscope With Vibrating Post as Rotation Transducer

Unlike in prior vibratory microgyroscopes, there is no cloverleaf structure. The figure depicts a micromachined silicon vibratory gyroscope that senses rotation about its z axis. The rotation-sensitive vibratory element is a post oriented (when at equilibrium) along the z axis and suspended at its base by thin, flexible silicon bands oriented along the x and y axes, respectively. Unlike in the vibratory microgyroscopes described in the immediately preceding article ["Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post" (NPO-20688)] and other previous articles in NASA Tech Briefs, the rotation-sensitive vibratory element does not include a cloverleaf-shaped structure that lies (when at equilibrium) in the x-y plane.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Single-Vector Calibration of Wind-Tunnel Force Balances

Improved data quality with an order of magnitude reduction in cost and calibration cycle time over prior methods. An improved method of calibrating a wind-tunnel force balance involves the use of a unique load application system integrated with formal experimental design methodology. The Single-Vector Force Balance Calibration System (SVS) overcomes the productivity and accuracy limitations of prior calibration methods.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Tool for Sampling Permafrost on a Remote Planet

A report discusses the robotic arm tool for rapidly acquiring permafrost (RATRAP), which is being developed for acquiring samples of permafrost on Mars or another remote planet and immediately delivering the samples to adjacent instruments for analysis. The prototype RATRAP includes a rasp that protrudes through a hole in the bottom of a container that is placed in contact with the permafrost surface. Moving at high speed, the rasp cuts into the surface and loads many of the resulting small particles of permafrost through the hole into the container. The prototype RATRAP has been shown to be capable of acquiring many grams of permafrost simulants in times of the order of seconds. In contrast, a current permafrost-sampling system that the RATRAP is intended to supplant works by scraping with tines followed by picking up the scrapings in a scoop, sometimes taking hours to acquire a few grams. Also, because the RATRAP inherently pulverizes the sampled material, it is an attractive alternative to other sampling apparatuses that generate core or chunk samples that must be further processed by a crushing apparatus to make the sample particles small enough for analysis by some instruments.

Posted in: Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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