Novel Overhang Support Designs for Powder-Based Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM)
EBAM technology is capable of making full-density, functional metallic components for numerous engineering applications; the technology is particularly advantageous in the aerospace, automotive, and biomedical industries where high-value, low-volume, custom-design productions are required. A key challenge in EBAM is overcoming deformation of overhangs that are the result of severe thermal gradients generated by the poor thermal conductivity of metallic powders used in the fabrication process. Conventional support structures (Figure 1a) address the deformation challenge; however, they are bonded to the component and need to be removed in post- processing using a mechanical tool. This process is laborious, time consuming, and degrades the surface quality of the product. The invented support design (Figure 1b) fabricates a support underneath an overhang by building the support up from the build plate and placing a support surface underneath an overhang with a certain gap (no contact with overhang). The technology deposits one or more layers of un-melted metallic powder in an elongate gap between an upper horizontal surface of the support structure and a lower surface of the overhang geometry. The support structure acts as a heat sink to enhance heat transfer and reduce the temperature and thermal gradients. Because the support structure is not connected to the part, the support structure can be removed freely without any post-processing step. Future work will compare experimental data with simulation results in order to validate process models as well as to study process parameter effects on the thermal characteristics of the EBAM process.
Novel Solid-State Humidity Sensor
NASAs novel ceramic dielectric material enables extremely high-sensitivity humidity sensing. The ceramic sensing element is robust, can be manufactured using printing processes, and exhibits fast response and recovery speeds with large capacitance and resistance response/change per relative humidity unit change across a wide range of humidity levels in a log-linear response. Preliminary test data conducted in a humidity test chamber show a log-linear measured response in capacitance from 5 nanofarads (at 30% relative humidity, room temperature) to 0.2 millifarads (at 90% relative humidity, room temperature). The inventors discovered the humidity sensing element technology during their efforts to develop next-generation energy storage materials and devices for NASA. The inventors were initially puzzled by large swings in capacitance observed over the course of any given day in one particular dielectric composition, and, ultimately, they were able to trace these unexpected changes in capacitance back to corresponding changes in ambient humidity, even those occurring from breathing and exhalation. The sensor element can be formed using a dielectric ink or paste formulation, also developed by NASA, via traditional screen printing or advanced ink jet, aerosol, or 3D printing methods. The printed sensor element can be very thin, on the order of microns in thickness, with a small footprint, one square centimeter or less.