Manufacturing & Prototyping

Design and Engineering of Process Plants Based on the “Lego Principle”

Users can add automation modules or switch them off in line with requirements.

Festo Corporation, Hauppauge, New York

Manufacturers in the process industries need to adjust to smaller batches and different types of product in the same plant. Plants based on the “Lego principle” are designed and engineered precisely to the respective task, whether for the production of a specific product in units per time unit, or for the throughput of a specific substance in a quantity per time unit. The mechanical design of the plant as a whole is geared towards meeting specifications and guaranteeing the required performance data over the projected lifecycle of the plant. The corresponding automation is carried out using management systems comprising process-specific (control) components, operating and monitoring stations, as well as engineering stations. The entire process is centrally controlled by a single management system.

Posted in: Briefs, Industrial Controls & Automation, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Automation, Production engineering

Electrochemically Enhanced Mechanical Polishing of Optics

A combined method results in a significant reduction of manufacturing time for optical components.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Optical component fabrication using metals or ceramic materials involves many grinding and/or machining and polishing steps to achieve the proper form to the tolerances of imaging or photonic focusing instruments. These instruments range from infrared sensors, through visible and ultraviolet, to X-ray and even thermal neutron focusing. Conventional manufacturing methods require many days or even months of precise polishing to improve selected areas of the component.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Optics, Optics, Fabrication, Machining processes, Ceramics, Metals

Expendable Cooling System for Venus Lander Concept

The concept could be applicable to the trucking industry to provide temporary cooling where power is not readily available.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

This innovation is a concept for a novel thermal architecture that would enable a day-long surface mission on Venus. A Venus lander mission could last much longer than a few hours on the surface of the planet by absorbing heat from the Venus environment, and from the electronics within the lander, by using an expendable fluid cooling system. The fluid would evaporate in the structural shell, absorbing heat coming from the ambient environment, keeping the shell relatively cool compared to the ambient temperature. The evaporating fluid would create a liquid flow from a reservoir used to cool electronic components within the lander. The liquid reservoir must be contained within the lander structure to serve as a heat sink to maximize the lander lifetime on the surface. A pressure tank would be used to bring the fluid to a point where it could boil and vent into the Venus atmosphere.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Cooling, Spacecraft

Rapid Quench Furnace for Processing Powder in an Inert Environment

The system is able to process particles and/or powder, preserving inert environmental conditions throughout.

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Ongoing work in the development and characterization of sensory materials requires the development of shape memory alloy (SMA) powder or particles. These are embedded in structural material so that the progression of localized damage that occurs during fatigue crack growth will produce an audible acoustic emission (AE) as the SMA transforms from an austenite phase to a martensite phase. In order to set the shape memory effect in these particles, the SMA must be solution-treated (ST) to produce the austenite phase, and rapidly quenched to or below room temperature to preserve the austenite phase at room temperature.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Alloys, Materials properties, Smart materials

Field Excavator with Embedded Force Measurement

The use of load sensing in excavation allows a vehicle to excavate without exceeding safe operating loads, and without doing unnecessary work.

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

The Centaur 2 (C2) platform is a compact vehicle with four independently steered and actuated wheel pods, allowing the vehicle to pivot in place and tilt in two directions. It is designed to interface with and carry the anthropomorphic robot torso of Robonaut 2. There are two nearly identical interface mounting locations on opposite sides of the vehicle body; each provides both power and data channel access. To explore soil-moving capabilities of this versatile platform, an articulated excavator was required for transporting raw material (soil) to an analog volatile extraction processor.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Robotics, Construction vehicles and equipment

Very Low Thermal Power Waste Heat Recovery System for Deep Space Missions

This “thermal flask” has applications in aerospace, deep space, and planetary missions.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Deep space missions, like the ones going to outer planets and those that rely on solar photovoltaic power, need extremely large solar arrays to produce that power for their operations because the solar intensity is so low at those locations. Hence, there was a need for a thermal architecture and design that would not require such prohibitively large thermal power levels.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Solar energy, Thermal management, Thermal management, Spacecraft

Loop Heat Pipe with Thermal Control Valve for Variable Thermal Link

The loop heat pipe is modulated without electrical power.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Existing technologies [Loop Heat Pipe (LHP) and passive Thermal Control Valve (TCV)] are integrated and made to work together to provide a passive variable thermal link. The result is a novel LHP with passive TCV that was developed to provide variable heat rejection (turn-down) allowing efficient operation during periods of low dissipation and cold environments, as well as periods of peak loads and warm environments. The thermal control valve installed in the vapor line routes the vapor flow to the radiator during normal operation, or directly to the compensation chamber during periods of cold radiator sink temperatures or low power. The vapor bypassing the condenser cancels the circulation to the radiator, thereby minimizing heat transport and rejection.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Thermal management, Thermal management, Radiators

Surface Densification of Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator

PICA (phenolic impregnated carbon ablator) was developed for the forebody heat shield of the Stardust Return Capsule. Conventional thermal protection system (TPS) materials of the time (primarily carbon phenolics) had high densities and thermal conductivities, yielding a TPS mass fraction that exceeded mission constraints. PICA was developed in the 1980s and consists of a rigid carbon fibrous substrate infiltrated with phenolic resin, yielding a TPS with good ablation and pyrolysis behavior. In addition, PICA has the advantages of low density coupled with efficient ablative capability at high heat fluxes. Limitations of PICA include relatively low mechanical properties, high recession rates, and poor handling, as the material sheds phenolic powder and is prone to damage from low-velocity impacts.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Resins, Spacecraft

Low-Density Flexible Ablators

NASA has developed a class of low-density, flexible ablators that can be fabricated into heat shields capable of being packaged, stowed, and deployed in space. Several flexible versions have been developed by infiltrating a pyrolyzing silicone resin into flexible, low-density felts made of carbon, polymer, or ceramic materials. The material is produced by immersing a flexible fibrous substrate in a diluted polymer resin, curing the polymer resin using heat and/or catalyst, and removing the solvent.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Insulation, Polymers, Resins, Spacecraft

Solar-Powered Carbon Dioxide Conversions with Thin-Film Devices

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

A nanomaterial thin-film device provides a low-cost, facile fabrication pathway to commercialize the technology to the sustainable energy market. Metal oxide thin films have been fabricated to a photoelectrochemical cell by solar energy. The prototype device uses both low energy cost for manufacturing and low materials cost for devices. The self-modulated device platform can also find other applications in sensors and detectors. The resultant prototype device can be deployed to the automobile industry or power plants with very low initial costs. The device can also be made extremely compact and efficient. It uses solar energy as the only power source.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Solar energy, Fabrication, Nanomaterials

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