NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a particle impact damper (NASA damper) that can be used in circuit card assemblies to reduce vibrations encountered during space vehicle launch. The damper, filled with high-density metallic beads, is attached to printed circuit boards (PCBs) and printed wiring assemblies (PWAs) to dissipate vibrations and improve component reliability and robustness. Testing has demonstrated an order-of-magnitude reduction in observed peak vibration response, and dramatic improvement in circuit component life span. The NASA technology provides simple and inexpensive vibration reduction for sensitive heritage or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics in applications where the vibration environment is either severe or exceeding its original design envelope. The technology can benefit heritage hardware in a wide range of applications as a retrofitted upgrade, or can be incorporated into the design of new circuit cards.

The NASA damper comprises a sealed cylindrical housing filled with high-density metallic beads. While attached to a circuit card, the damper dissipates vibrations as particles collide. The inventors of this technology conducted random vibration testing and finite element analysis to demonstrate the damper’s effect on the vibration response and fatigue life of circuit componentry. In one case, bending mode attenuation proved critical to significantly extending the fatigue life of circuit card components. In undamped assemblies, 19 of 100 channels failed within 12 minutes, as opposed to 306 minutes for damped assemblies. In another experiment, the damper attenuated the vibration response of a 165-Hz bending mode by more than 10 dB with no detrimental frequency shift observed.

Additional data collected during testing shows that the NASA damper became more effective as the number of particles increased. Results confirm that the damping effect is not localized or due to the simple addition of mass, and is more effective than varying board thickness to control vibration. High-speed video, accelerometer, and strain measurements have been collected to correlate with analytical results.

This technology is temperature independent, and can be used in extremely cold or hot environments. It has uses in aerospace for launch systems, and rotary and fixed-wing aircraft; industrial for heavy factory equipment and construction machinery; marine for barges, merchant marine vessels, and cruise ships; transportation for railroad, trucking, and farm equipment; and motor sports for motorcycles, autos, boats, and more.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact Sammy A. Nabors at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/MFS-TOPS-48.