A proposed thermal-bonding technique would make it possible to join or separate thermoplastic parts quickly and efficiently. The technique would eliminate the need for conventional welding or for such conventional fastening components as bolted flanges or interlocking hooks. The technique could be particularly useful in the sign industry (in which large quantities of thermoplastics are used) or could be used to join plastic pipes.
A thin sheet of a suitable electrically conductive material would be formed to fit between two thermoplastic parts to be joined (see figure). The electrically conductive sheet and the two parts would be put together tightly, then an electrical current would be sent through the conductor to heat the thermoplastic locally. The magnitude of the current and the heating time would be chosen to generate just enough heat to cause the thermoplastic to adhere to both sides of the electrically conductive sheet. optionally, the electrically conductive sheet could contain many small holes to provide purchase or to increase electrical resistance to facilitate the generation of heat.
After thermal bonding, the electrically conductive sheet remains as an integral part of the structure. If necessary, the electrically conductive sheet can be reheated later to separate the joined thermoplastic parts.
This work was done by Melvin A. Bryant III of Marshall Space Flight Center. This invention has been patented by NASA (U.S. Patent No. 6,394,501). Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to
MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead
Refer to MFS-31403