Use of Beam Deflection to Control Electron-Beam Wire Deposition
The technology employs rastering of the e-beam in the region of the wire and substrate melt zone. By controlling the raster pattern, the e-beam selectively heats the outer edges of the wire as it strays from the melt zone. With such selective heating, the wire automatically curls back away from the high heat outer edge and back into the region of the molten pool. Thus, with a fixed raster pattern, the process becomes self-correcting without any sensing or external control of process parameters.
Plasma Deposition of Metal in Composite Panels
NASA's plasma-deposition process provides the ability to tailor various properties while designing functional parts by selecting specific materials and processing parameters to meet the end goal. Specifically, the plasma process deposits metal particles that are heated as they travel axially at low velocity through an inert gas plasma. The accelerated powder particles become molten, strike the substrate fabric (uniaxial, biaxial, and multiaxial) and rapidly solidify, imparting very little heat to the substrate while forming a metal-to-fiber bond, as well as a metal-to-metal bond. The resulting metal-coated fabric is porous, so the polymer matrix can pass through the product precursor during the infusion process. The amount of metal deposited can be controlled, as can the number of plies of fabric that are ultimately stacked to produce the preform for the polymer matrix infusion process. A variety of infusion processes can be utilized to prepare the FML, including resin transfer molding (RTM), resin film infusion (RFI), and vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM). The tailorable aspect of the process allows for specific product design. By varying the combination of metal particle, fiber, fabric type, metal layer thickness, fabric direction, number of layers, polymer matrix resin, infusion process, and cure conditions, the characteristics of the final part can meet the needs of various applications.
mechanical and fluid systems
Integral Tuned Mass Absorber for Turbine Blades
Additive manufacturing methods (e.g. Laser Metal Sintering) are used to integrally fabricate a tuned-mass vibration absorber inside a turbine blade. The design approach uses an internal column manufactured as part of the blade that is optimized such that the dynamics of the blade damper system are rearranged and reduced according to the well-known science of tuned mass-absorption (TMA). The TMA concept has been implemented successfully in applications ranging from skyscrapers to liquid oxygen tanks for space vehicles. Indeed, this theory has been conceptually applied to bladed-disk vibration, but a practical design has not previously been reported. The NASA innovation addresses another important challenge for turbine blade vibration damper designs. All existing blade damper solutions are essentially incapable of being reliably predicted, so an expensive post-design test program must be performed to validate the expected response. Even then, the actual magnitude of the response reduction under actual hot fire conditions may never be known. The dynamic response of this tuned-mass-absorber design is both substantial and can be analytically predicted with high confidence, and thus the response can be incorporated fully into the up-front design process.
Interim, In Situ Additive Manufacturing Inspection
The in situ inspection technology for additive manufacturing combines different types of cameras strategically placed around the part to monitor its properties during construction. The IR cameras collect accurate temperature data to validate thermal math models, while the visual cameras obtain highly detailed data at the exact location of the laser to build accurate, as-built geometric models. Furthermore, certain adopted techniques (e.g., single to grouped pixels comparison to avoid bad/biased pixels) reduce false positive readings. NASA has developed and tested prototypes in both laser-sintered plastic and metal processes. The technology detected errors due to stray powder sparking and material layer lifts. Furthermore, the technology has the potential to detect anomalies in the property profile that are caused by errors due to stress, power density issues, incomplete melting, voids, incomplete fill, and layer lift-up. Three-dimensional models of the printed parts were reconstructed using only the collected data, which demonstrates the success and potential of the technology to provide a deeper understanding of the laser-metal interactions. By monitoring the print, layer by layer, in real-time, users can pause the process and make corrections to the build as needed, reducing material, energy, and time wasted in nonconforming parts.
Fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips
The plasma system consists of a glass tube with a diameter of 0.5 mm or larger, if desired. The electrodes are separated by 10 mm. Helium, argon or cold dry air can be used as a plasma gas source. An applied high voltage between the electrodes causes the gas to breakdown within the central core of the glass capillary generating atmospheric plasma. Nanostructures colloids/organic/inorganic precursors are placed in a glass container with an inlet and outlet for carrier gas and are seated on an ultrasonic nebuliser. The aerosol is then carried into the plasma stream by the carrier gas and is deposited. The atmospheric plasma deposition system can be modified for depositing multiple materials, either simultaneously or sequentially, and for high-throughput processing by having multiple jets. Each capillary can either be connected to the container containing a single precursor material or to different containers containing different precursor materials to facilitate multiple depositions. The multi-jet plasma system can be automated and controlled individually to precisely control surface characteristics. This technique is independent of the chosen substrate, and has proven to work for many substrates, including paper, plastic, semiconductors and metals.
information technology and software
Additive Manufacturing Model-based Process Metrics (AM-PM)
Modeling additive manufacturing processes can be difficult due to the scale difference between the active processing point (e.g., a sub-millimeter melt pool) and the part itself. Typically, the tools used to model these processes are either too computationally intensive (due to high physical fidelity or inefficient computations) or are focused solely on either the microscale (e.g., microstructure) or macroscale (e.g., cracks). These pitfalls make the tools unsuitable for fast and efficient evaluations of additive manufacturing build files and parts. Failures in parts made by laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) often come when there is a lack of fusion or overheating of the metal powder that causes areas of high porosity. AM-PM uses a point field-based method to model L-PBF process conditions from either the build instructions (pre-build) or in situ measurements (during the build). The AM-PM modeling technique has been tested in several builds including a Ti-6Al-4V test article that was divided into 16 parts, each with different build conditions. With AM-PM, calculations are performed faster than similar methods and the technique can be generalized to other additive manufacturing processes. The AM-PM method is at technology readiness level (TRL) 6 (system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment) and is available for patent licensing.
materials and coatings
3D-Printed Composites for High Temperature Uses
NASA's technology is the first successful 3D-printing of high temperature carbon fiber filled thermoset polyimide composites. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) of carbon-filled RTM370 is followed by post-curing to achieve higher temperature capability, resulting in a composite part with a glass transition temperature of 370 °C. SLS typically uses thermoplastic polymeric powders and the resultant parts have a useful temperature range of 150-185 °C, while often being weaker compared to traditionally processed materials. Recently, higher temperature thermoplastics have been manufactured into 3D parts by high temperature SLS that requires a melting temperature of 380 °C, but the usable temperature range for these parts is still under 200 °C. NASA's thermoset polyimide composites are melt-processable between 150-240 °C, allowing the use of regular SLS machines. The resultant parts are subsequently post-cured using multi-step cycles that slowly heat the material to slightly below its glass transition temperature, while avoiding dimensional change during the process. This invention will greatly benefit aerospace companies in the production of parts with complex geometry for engine components requiring over 300 °C applications, while having a wealth of other potential applications including, but not limited to, printing legacy parts for military aircraft and producing components for high performance electric cars.
robotics automation and control
Robotic Assembly of Photovoltaic Arrays
NASA researchers have developed the PAPA technology to increase the efficiency of the thin-film solar array assembly process, significantly decreasing assembly time and labor costs associated with manufacturing large scale solar arrays. Traditional solar cell assembly is a labor intensive, multi-step, time-consuming process. This manual assembly will not be possible in a space environment. To enable solar array assembly in space, PAPA leverages robotic automation to distill the traditional assembly method into four fully automated steps: applying adhesive to block substrate, placing the solar cells using a vacuum tool attached to a universal robotic arm, printing the interconnects and buses to connect the cells, and applying a protective cover. The PAPA technology is compatible with a variety of thin-film solar cells, including 3D printed cells (essential for future in-space manufacturing of arrays) and terrestrial manufacturing methods. As solar cell technologies mature, PAPA will be able to incorporate advancements into the paneling process. NASA researchers have begun to employ PAPA solar array fabrication and estimate savings of $300-$400/watt. For extraterrestrial assembly of solar panels the size of a football field or larger, PAPA could result in savings of approximately $500 million; a substantial cost savings driven by standardization and efficiency in the solar array assembly process. By demonstrating increases in assembly efficiency, time and cost savings, and passing multiple environmental exposure tests, the PAPA lab protype has completed the final phases of technology development and is ready for scale-up and commercialization.
Fully Automated High-Throughput Additive Manufacturing
The technology is a method to increase automation of Additive Manufacturing (AM) through augmentation of the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) process. It can significantly increase the speed of 3D printing by automating the removal of printed components from the build platform without the need for additional hardware, which increases printing throughput. The method can also be leveraged to perform automated object testing and characterization. The method includes embedding into the manufacturing instructions methods to fabricate directly onto the build platform an actuator tool, such as a linear spring. The deposition head can be leveraged as a robotic manipulator of the actuator tool to bend, cock, and release the linear spring to strike the target manufactured object and move it off the build platform of the machine they were manufactured on. The ability for an object to 'fly off of the machine that made it' essentially enables automated clearing of the processed build volume. The technology can also be used for testing the AM machine or the feedstock material by successively fabricating prototypes of the manufactured object, and taking measurements from sensors as the actuator strikes the prototype. This provides automated testing for quality control, machine calibration, material origins, and counterfeit detection.
Regolith-Polymer 3D Printing
The invention consists of a 3D print head apparatus that heats and extrudes a regolith-polymer (or other) mixture as part of an additive manufacturing process. The technology includes a securing mechanism, hopper, nozzle, barrel, and heating system. The securing mechanism attaches to a wrist joint of a robotic arm. The hopper, connected to the securing mechanism, has a cavity and a lower aperture. The barrel is an elongated, hollow member with its first end connected to the hopper's lower aperture and its second end connected to the nozzle's upper aperture. The heating system is positioned along the barrel and comprises a heater, thermocouple, insulator, and heating controller. The heating controller activates the heater based on input signals received from the thermocouple. The print head apparatus also includes a feed screw, drive shaft, and motor. The feed screw is positioned within the elongated hollow member of the barrel, and the drive shaft transmits torque to the feed screw. The motor provides torque to the drive shaft. An agitator is secured to the drive shaft, facilitating the consistent movement and mixing of the regolith-polymer mixture in the hopper. The nozzle includes a tube with an open end and an occluded end, allowing the mixture to be extruded through the lower aperture. The jointly developed 3D print head technology enables efficient, large-scale additive construction using in-situ resources, such as regolith or other materials. The innovation reduces the need for transporting materials from Earth and allows for sustainable habitat development on the Moon or Mars. Given its adaptability to different crushed rock-polymer materials, the invention may also serve as an alternative to conventional Portland concrete construction on Earth.