Manufacturing & Prototyping

Low-Power-Consumption, Single-Mode Quantum Cascade Lasers Fabricated Without Epitaxial Regrowth

These low-power lasers can be used for spectroscopy instruments in health and safety monitoring, and industrial process monitoring.

Quantum cascade (QC) lasers employ intersubband electronic transitions in semiconductor quantum well structures to generate emission at specific engineered wavelengths. QC devices have been particularly successful as mid-infrared emitters in the 4- to 12-μm wavelength range, a spectral regime that is difficult to access with interband diode lasers. As cascade devices, QC lasers can also be designed with many gain stages, which, combined with optimized doping and optical design, has enabled the development of lasers with remarkably high continuous output power (in excess of 1 W). One of the most important applications of mid-infrared QC lasers is quantitative gas detection using absorption spectroscopy, where a single-frequency laser is used to interrogate specific absorption lines of a target compound. While high output power is essential in certain applications, many in situ absorption spectrometers require only milliwatt-level output to effectively measure low levels of compounds of interest with strong absorption lines in the mid-infrared regime.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Semiconductor devices, Spectroscopy, Lasers, Semiconductor devices, Spectroscopy, Energy consumption, Gases
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A Versatile Three-Dimensional Printing Approach

This technology can generate integrated circuits, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries.

NASA has developed a versatile method and associated apparatus for constructing and using a conductive filament in various applications of 3D printing. It uses an attractive polymer formulation, which exhibits low melting temperature even when combined with conductive material, as the printing filament material. It may be used with a commercial 3D printer to generate custom 3D conductive geometries, such as integrated circuitries, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries. This invention can be used to create conductive, piezoelectric, or multifunctional materials using three-dimensional printing, with relatively low melt or glass transition temperatures. This invention should be useful wherever such materials are needed, with modest fabrication costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Electronic equipment, Electronic equipment, Additive manufacturing, Fabrication, Conductivity, Polymers
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Puncture-Healing Thermoplastic Resin Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Composites

This technology self-repairs following low- to mid-velocity impacts.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed carbon fiber reinforced composites with self-healing properties. The initiation and propagation of damage to carbon composites, such as in aircraft structural components, results in component failure. Typical structural repairs result in damaging practices, where material is ground away and holes are drilled to secure patches, which can act as new sites for damage. This technology exhibits effective self-repair that heals quickly following low- to mid-velocity impacts, while retaining structural integrity.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Composite materials, Fibers, Thermoplastics, Durability, Durability
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Improved Impact Toughness and Heat Treatment for Cast Aluminum

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center researchers have developed a new, stronger aluminum alloy, ideal for cast aluminum products that have powder or paint-baked thermal coatings. With advanced mechanical properties, the NASA-427 alloy shows greater tensile strength and increased ductility, providing substantial improvement in impact toughness. In addition, this alloy improves the thermal coating process by decreasing the time required for heat treatment. With improvements in both strength and processing time, use of the alloy provides reduced materials and production costs, lower product weight, and better product performance. The superior properties of NASA-427 can benefit many industries, including automotive, where it is particularly well suited for use in aluminum wheels.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Casting, Heat treatment, Aluminum alloys, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes
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Dynamically Variable Spot Size Laser System

Applications include aerospace engine repair, medical hardware manufacturing, plastic mold and die restoration, and jewelry manufacturing and repair.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed the handheld laser torch, designed for welding and brazing metals, to repair hard-to-reach Space Shuttle engine nozzles. It incorporates various manual controls and changing lenses to allow the operator to adjust the laser’s power output in real time. The controls and lenses are designed to increase precision, portability, and maneuverability as compared to existing automated lasers and traditional welding techniques such as tungsten inert gas (TIG), metal inert gas (MIG), or gas-tungsten arc welding (GTAW) systems. Proximity sensors with automated shut-off switches also ensure a high level of safety for the user.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Lasers, Human machine interface (HMI), Welding, Nozzles, Spacecraft
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Precision Coffeemaker Adapts Brews to Beans and Taste

NASA’s embedded communications technology and PID controllers play key roles in coffee brewing system.

Technology often takes circuitous paths. A magnetron developed for precision bombing during World War II led to the microwave oven, and a battery-powered drill created for collecting samples of Moon rock gave birth to the Dustbuster. Likewise, one student’s NASA experience with autonomous robotic vehicles has informed the creation of one of the world’s most sophisticated coffee machines.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Communications, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Design processes, Human machine interface (HMI), Robotics
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Editor’s Choice: November 2016

A handheld laser torch for welding and brazing metals enables in-field repairs where space and time are constrained. The fiber laser torch incorporates changing lenses to allow the operator to adjust the laser’s power output in real time. Applications include engine repair, medical device manufacturing, plastic mold and die restoration, and jewelry manufacturing and repair. Find out more here.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace, Recycling Technologies, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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2016 Create the Future Design Contest: Machinery/Automation/Robotics Category Winner

SHAPE MEMORY ALLOY BASED SAFETY LATCH

Nicholas W. Pinto, Suresh Gopalakrishnan, Chandra S. Namuduri, Nancy L. Johnson, and Mark Vann General Motors, Warren, MI

General Motors has invented a device that indicates when an unsafe level of energy remains in an electrical panel box after the main power has been disconnected. Possible sources of this energy may be incorrect wiring, external device add-ons, and the presence of residual charge from capacitors. The device works by engaging a safety latch mechanism built with shape memory alloy (SMA) technology along with an audio or visual alarm.

Posted in: Articles, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Implants & Prosthetics, Medical, Automation, Robotics, Alloys, Smart materials, Hardware, Restraint systems
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2016 Create the Future Design Contest: Consumer Products Category Winner

MIFOLD

Jon Sumroy, Carfoldio, Ltd., Ra’anana, Israel

The mifold Grab-and-Go booster seat for children aged 4-12 is more than ten times smaller than a regular booster seat and just as safe. A regular booster seat works by lifting a child up to the position of an adult. mifold does the opposite, securing the seatbelt in the correct position on the hips and shoulder by holding the seatbelt down at three points.

Posted in: Articles, Automotive, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Imaging, Medical, Design processes, Children, Seats and seating, Seats and seating, Child restraint systems
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Products of Tomorrow: November 2016

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.

Posted in: Products, Solar Power, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Sensors, Test & Measurement
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