One of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America will help NASA build the biggest lightweight composite parts ever made for space vehicles. The robot will build structures larger than 26 feet in diameter. The robot travelled across the country from Electroimpact, Inc. in Mukilteo, WA. Electroimpact engineers worked with NASA Marshall engineers to customize the robot and supporting software for building large space structures.

The 21-foot robot arm moves on a track at NASA Marshall. The robot head is dispensing hair-thin carbon fiber tape in precise patterns to make a large composite panel. (NASA/MSFC/Fred Deaton)

Mounted on a 40-foot-long track in Marshall’s Composites Technology Center, the robot features a head at the end of its 21-foot robot arm that articulates in multiple directions. The head can hold up to 16 spools of carbon fibers that look like pieces of tape and are as thin as human hairs. The robot places the fibers onto a tooling surface in precise patterns to form different large structures of varying shapes and sizes. The tooling surface holds the piece on a rotisserie-like system on a parallel track next to the robot. The robot head can be changed for different projects, which makes the system flexible and usable for various types of manufacturing.