Materials & Manufacturing

Browse innovative developments in materials and manufacturing that significantly impact military, medical devices, automotive, and industrial manufacturing. Advances in plastics, metals, and composites are transforming 3D printing and rapid prototyping.

News : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Microfluidics is Key to Mass-Producing Nanomaterials

Nanoparticles can be found in everything from drug-delivery formulations to high-definition televisions. They’re also expensive and a pain to make. Researchers at USC have created a new way to manufacture nanoparticles that will transform the process from a painstaking, batch-by-batch...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
NASA Satellite Marks First Space Use of 3D-Printed Part

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will carry an electrostatically dissipative Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or “strand-based,” 3D printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), a material that has never been used in 3D manufacturing, let alone flown in...

News : Semiconductors & ICs
Manufacturing Optical Chips with Multiple Purposes

Researchers are at the forefront of a revolution in microwave photonics, developing the first all-purpose programmable optical chips. Optical chips or processors are used in everything from biomedical devices to telecommunications networks. As it stands, each chip has to be custom designed and...

News : Test & Measurement
NASA Tests Life-Detection Drill in Earth’s Driest Place

The Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS) project completed its first deployment after one month of field work in the hyper-arid core of the Atacama Desert in Chile, the “driest place on Earth.” More than 20 scientists from the United States, Chile, Spain, and France...

News : Energy
Ultra-Thin Solar Cells Rest on a Soap Bubble

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated a solar cell so light and thin that it can rest atop a soap bubble.

Though it may take years before the device is developed into a commercial product, the laboratory proof-of-concept shows a new approach to...

News : Materials
Soft Electronics Change the Way Robot Fingers Move

A new soft robotic gripper made out of rubber and stretchable electrodes can bend and pick up delicate objects like eggs and paper. It uses electroadhesion – flexible electrode flaps that act like a thumb-index gripper – to pick up fragile objects of arbitrary shape and stiffness, like an...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Robotic Drones to 'Print' Emergency Shelters

Researchers from the University of Bath, Imperial College, and University College London have developed robotic drones designed to "print" emergency shelters. The flying robots will autonomously assess and manufacture building structures to help areas suffering from natural disasters.

News : Aerospace
Graphene Composite Could Keep Wings Ice-Free

A thin coating of graphene nanoribbons in epoxy developed at Rice University has proven effective at melting ice on a helicopter blade. The lab melted centimeter-thick ice from a static helicopter rotor blade in a -4° F environment. When a small voltage was applied, the coating delivered...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
The Fourth Revolution in Manufacturing

The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is all about going digital. But the term – and the basic idea behind it – are not new. First used in 2011 at Hannover Fair in Germany, the term Industry 4.0 originates from a question posed by the German government to its country’s manufacturing...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Thermal Cameras Reveal Materials’ Secrets

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are pioneering the use of infrared cameras to image additive manufacturing processes in hopes of better understanding how processing conditions affect the strength, residual stresses and microstructure of 3D-printed parts.

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
'Cockroach' Robots Squeeze Through Cracks

UC Berkeley biologists have found robotic inspiration in the creepy ability of cockroaches to squeeze through even the tiniest crack.

News : Test & Measurement
New 3D-Printed Part Allows NASA to Measure Sea Ice

Slated for launch in 2018, NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will carry a 3D-printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), a material that has never been used in additive manufacturing, let alone flown in space.

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Method for Fabricating Metallic Panels with Deep Stiffener Sections

This innovation integrates existing highperformance metallic materials and manufacturing technologies (all of which are now certified and used to produce thinner stiffened panels for launch vehicle structures) in a novel manner to allow fabrication of more structurally efficient...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Robust, High-Temperature Containment Cartridges for Microgravity

Robust, high-temperature containment cartridges are needed for processing materials science experiments in microgravity. In general, the refractory metals (Nb, Ta, Mo, W, Re) possess the chemical inertness and high melting temperatures desired. Of these materials, niobium and...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Method for Insertion of Carbon Fiber Through the Thickness of Dense Dry Fiber Preform

Creation of a structural joint for a heat shield for extreme entry environments requires structural fibers penetrating through the thickness of the shield at joint locations. The structural fibers must be made of carbon to withstand extremely high temperatures,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Edge-Bonded Shims

Precision shims are used as compensators to absorb tolerances between mating components. They significantly reduce manufacturing costs by eliminating the need for each component to be precision-machined in order to achieve the proper fit and function of the total assembly. During the assembly process, shims provide adjustment...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Precision Detector Conductance Definition via Ballistic Thermal Transport

The characteristics of a thermal detector, such as sensitivity, response time, and saturation power (or energy resolution), are functions of the thermal conductance of the detector to its cryogenic environment. The thermal conductance is specified to achieve a tradeoff...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Products of Tomorrow: February 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...

Briefs : Materials
Processing and Damage Tolerance of Continuous Carbon Fiber Composites Containing Puncture-Self-Healing Thermoplastic Matrix

The initiation and propagation of damage ultimately results in failure of aircraft structural components. Often, impact damage is difficult to identify in-service, and hence design of continuous carbon fiber reinforced...

Briefs : Materials
Advanced Supported Liquid Membranes for CO‚2 Control in EVA Applications

NASA has a clear need to develop new technology in support of its future goals, including missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the possible development of lunar outposts, and the eventual exploration of Mars. As these missions develop, it is anticipated that crew members will...

Briefs : Materials
Low-Density Titanium-Based Bulk Metallic Glasses with High Glass-Forming Ability

Ti-based bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) and matrix composites (BMGMCs) are a subset of the class of materials known synonymously as amorphous metals, liquid metals, and glassy metals, described by their majority element (in atomic percent) being that of titanium. BMGs...

Briefs : Materials
Thermal Management Coating (TMC)

An experimental study was conducted in conjunction with the research and development program at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on thermal protection systems (TPS) for aerospace applications, a new concept for reusable TPS material. The new system uses a micro-encapsulated phase-change material...

Briefs : Materials
AeroHeating Tools (AHT) Suite

This suite of computer programs, called “tools,” is used to calculate local flow angles over damage sites in the Shuttle Orbiter Thermal Protection System (TPS). It provides a quick and easy way to compute cross flow angles over points of interest on the Shuttle Orbiter TPS.

Briefs : Information Technology
EXOS Software

An improved version of EXOS software allows for the modeling of fabrics, mixtures, and porous materials, and also provides the ability to accept hex mesh geometries. The code employs a novel numerical method, a hybrid particle finite element approach, as well as particles and elements in tandem, each modeling distinct aspects of...

News : Materials
Scientists Print in 4D

Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have brought a fourth dimension to their microscale 3D printing technology.

News : Materials
Beetle-Inspired Patterning Prevents Frost

Taking a page from the beetle's playbook, Virginia Tech biomedical engineers created a way to control condensation and frost growth on airplane parts, condenser coils, and windshields.

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Mini Force Fields Control Individual Microbots

Researchers are using a technology likened to "mini force fields" to independently control individual microrobots operating within groups, an advance aimed at using the tiny machines in areas including manufacturing and medicine. Until now it was only possible to control groups of microbots to move...

News : Materials
Lightweight, Strong Metal Could Make Airplanes More Energy Efficient

Researchers have created a lightweight, but very strong, structural metal made of magnesium because it is a light metal with two-thirds the density of aluminum, is abundant on Earth, and is biocompatible. It was mixed with silicon carbide nanoparticles into a molten...

News : Aerospace
Researchers Use Rust to Improve 3D-Printing Process

A team of Northwestern researchers has created a new way to print three-dimensional metallic objects using rust and metal powders.

News : Energy
New Solar Material Releases Heat on Demand

A layer-by-layer film developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could harvest sunlight and release heat on demand hours or days later.