BRINGING IN THE REINFORCEMENTS
- Wednesday, 13 June 2007
What do NASA and ballistics have in common? More than the average person may know. Everyday, millions of Americans drive in vehicles, cross over bridges, and fly in airplanes without knowing just how important NASA's role in studying ballistics is in making these actions viable and safe for them.
At Glenn Research Center's Ballistic Impact Facility, NASA scientists and engineers study the dynamics of high-speed projectiles and their impact on targets to create materials and structures that are smarter, lighter, and stronger. By applying the science of ballistics to new developments, these researchers are taking major steps in preventing catastrophic events. The Ballistic Impact Facility's main features are a 40-foot-long gas gun that can launch projectiles at speeds over 1,000 miles per hour and high-speed cameras that can capture up to 250 million images per second.
The whole idea is to watch the impact and see how the structures impacted by the projectiles behave, says Dale Hopkins, a structures engineer and team leader for the facility. It's not just whether they survive, but how they deform and fail.
One of the facility's main responsibilities is testing new concepts for aircraft engine housings to ensure they are capable of withstanding severe forces caused by fragments of rotating components that unexpectedly fail, for example, due to ingestion of foreign object debris such as hail or birds. Adequate engine housings are critical to reducing the risks of airplane damage and passenger injury.
On the ground, Glenn's ballistic testing is benefiting transportation and industry, thanks to a company named WebCore Technologies, Inc.
Additionally, WebCore Technologies received a NASA Glenn Garrett Morgan Assistance Award to establish a comprehensive sales and marketing force for the fiber-reinforced product. The award, intended for small, minority- or women-owned companies in the Great Lakes states as well as in New York, North Carolina, and Georgia, also entitled WebCore Technologies to seek help from the Garrett Morgan staff in solving a particular technical problem that arose during product development.
The TYCOR fiber-reinforced foam composite is WebCore Technologies answer for a lightweight, low-cost sandwich panel that offers superior structural performance to aerospace, defense, construction, transportation, marine, and industrial markets. TYCOR consists of a foam core that is covered with fabric skins and then stitched with reinforcing fibers. When the skins and fibers are impregnated with resin, the result is a very strong, damage-resistant composite system.
The core manufacturing process integrates porous fiberglass or carbon fiber reinforcements in a three- dimensional architecture, in the form of structural webs. The porous reinforcements act as resin flow channels that are easily controllable during resin infusion. The core process delivers a high degree of design flexibility using different types of foam and fiber, which are tailored to meet the functional requirements and cost targets for specific applications.
TYCOR panels were used in the first composite bridge deck installed on a Federal property: the Hebble Creek bridge site located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. WebCore Technologies designed, fabricated, tested, and installed four 8-feet by 32-feet composite panels to form the bridge deck. The deck was tested for over 250,000 load cycles to simulate over 50 years of traffic, successfully showing TYCOR's long-term durability.
The technology is now a part of a lightweight airfield matting system being developed to replace the aluminum matting currently used in temporary runways, taxiways, aircraft parking areas, and other surfacing applications. WebCore Technologies is even exploring the possibility of replacing traditional manhole covers with fiber-reinforced covers that could better handle load-bearing vehicles.
Further, TYCOR cores and sandwich panels can be used for various interior and exterior components of commercial aircraft. Potential interior applications include floors, doors, bulkheads, seats, and luggage bins. Potential exterior applications include control surfaces, landing gear doors, access doors, fairings, radomes, and fuselage panels. NASA, too, can benefit from TYCOR, with potential applications for rocket fairings, payload adapters, cryogenic tanks, and structural members. WebCore Technologies is in the midst of completing Phase II of its SBIR contract with Glenn to bring these applications and others closer to reality.