Modular Fixturing for Assembly and Welding Applications
NASA's researchers have designed modular fixtures to address inefficiencies in time, labor, and material costs due to the need to fabricate unique, monolithic fixture bodies for different segments of the Space Launch System (SLS). Before NASA staff can configure and weld rocket sections, they must assemble modular tooling atop a large turntable with radial grooves. Supporting braces (tombstones) that form the base of the modular structure slide into radial grooves. Other extending, clamping, and joining fixtures can be variously connected to the base structure to provide circumferential support for producing conical and cylindrical structures. NASA has used the tooling to produce structures with diameters of up to 27 feet. Depending on the desired application, the base can be scaled to produce larger or smaller diameters, and the grooves can be arranged with a longitudinal arrangement for production of parts with bilateral symmetry. The development of these modular fixtures required an initial investment similar to that of a single project's tool design and fabrication costs. Once produced, only a fraction of that time/cost is required to begin all subsequent projects. NASA has used this new, adaptable tooling in the construction of several different rocket stages, proving its cost-saving capabilities.
Lower Chatter Friction Pull Plug Welding (FPPW)
The new friction pull plug design is optimized to reduce chatter that results as a fast rotating plug enters the hole in the part. The plug design is based on a shank with multiple frustoconical sections shown in the figure to the right. The sections are carefully sized to ensure that the spinning plug contacts the edge of the hole at just the right position to minimize chatter. It keeps the machine from stalling when the plug enters the hole. This new design makes FPPW more practical, perhaps even as a future rivet replacement.
Activated Metal Treatment System (AMTS) for Paints
PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals and to have other adverse effects on immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Although the production of PCBs in the United States has been banned since the late 1970s, many surfaces are still coated with PCB-laden paints. The presence of PCBs in paints adds complexity and expense for disposal. Some treatment methods (e.g., use of solvents, physical removal via scraping) are capable of removing PCBs from surfaces, but these technologies create a new waste stream that must be treated. Other methods, like incineration, can destroy the PCBs but destroy the painted structure as well, preventing reuse. To address limitations with traditional abatement methods for PCBs in paints, researchers at NASAs Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the University of Central Florida have developed the Activated Metal Treatment System (AMTS) for Paints. This innovative technology consists of a solvent solution (e.g., ethanol, d-limonene) that contains an activated zero-valent metal. AMTS is first applied to the painted surface either using spray-on techniques or wipe-on techniques. The solution then extracts the PCBs from the paint. The extracted PCBs react with the microscale activated metal and are degraded into benign by-products. This technology can be applied without removing the paint or dismantling the painted structure. In addition, the surface can be reused following treatment.
materials and coatings
Chemical and Topographical Surface Modifications for Insect Adhesion Mitigation
The technology is a method of mitigating insect residue adhesion to various surfaces upon insect impact. The process involves topographical modification of the surface using laser ablation patterning followed by chemical modification or particulate inclusion in a polymeric matrix. Laser ablation patterning is performed by a commercially available laser system and the chemical spray deposition is composed of nanometer sized silica particles with a hydrophobic solution (e.g. heptadecafluoro-1,1,2,2-tetrahydrodecyltriethoxysilane) in an aqueous ethanol solution. Both topographic and chemical modification of the substrate is necessary to achieve the desired performance.
materials and coatings
Hydrophobic Epoxy Coating for Insect Adhesion Mitigation
This technology is a copolymeric epoxy coating that is loaded with a fluorinated aliphatic chemical species and nano- to microscale particle fillers. The coating was developed as a hydrophobic and non-wetting coating for aerodynamic surfaces to prevent accumulation of insect strike remains that can lead to natural laminar flow disruption and aerodynamic inefficiencies. The coating achieves hydrophobicity in two ways. First, the fluorinated aliphatic chemical species are hydrophobic surface modification additives that preferentially migrate to the polymer surface that is exposed to air. Secondly, the incorporation of particle fillers produces a micro-textured surface that displays excellent resistance to wetting. Combined, these two factors increase hydrophobicity and can also be used to readily generate superhydrophobic surfaces.
Strobing to Mitigate Vibration for Display Legibility
The dominant frequency of the vibration that requires mitigation can be known in advance, measured in real time, or predicted with simulation algorithms. That frequency (or a lower frequency multiplier) is then used to drive the strobing rate of the illumination source. For example, if the vibration frequency is 20 Hz, one could employ a strobe rate of 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, or 20 Hz, depending on which rate the operator finds the least intrusive. The strobed illumination source can be internal or external to the display. Perceptual psychologists have long understood that strobed illumination can freeze moving objects in the visual field. This effect can be used for artistic effect or for technical applications. The present innovation is instead applicable for environments in which the human observer rather than just the viewed object undergoes vibration. Such environments include space, air, land, and sea vehicles, or on foot (e.g., walking or running on the ground or treadmills). The technology itself can be integrated into handheld and fixed display panels, head-mounted displays, and cabin illumination for viewing printed materials.
electrical and electronics
In Situ Wire Damage Detection and Rerouting System
The tester was designed to monitor electrical faults in either online or offline modes of operation. In the online mode, wires are monitored without disturbing their normal operation. A cable can be monitored several times per second in the offline mode, and once per second in the online mode. The online cable fault locator not only detects the occurrence of a fault, but also determines the type of fault (short/open/intermittent) and the location of the fault. This enables the detection of intermittent faults that can be repaired before they become serious problems. Since intermittent faults occur mainly during operations, a built-in memory device stores all relevant fault data. This data can be displayed in real time or retrieved later so maintenance and repairs can be completed without spending countless hours attempting to pinpoint the source of the problem. Hardware and algorithms have also been developed to safely, efficiently, and autonomously transfer electrical power and data connectivity from an identified damaged/defective wire in a cable to an alternate wire path. This portion of the system consists of master and slave units that provide the diagnostic and rerouting capabilities. A test pulse generated by the master unit is sent down an active wire being monitored by the slave unit. When the slave unit detects the test pulse, it routes the pulse back to the master unit through a communication wire. When the master unit determines that a test pulse is not being returned, it designates that wire as faulty and reroutes the circuit to a spare wire.
Inflight Global Nonlinear Aerodynamics Modeling and Simulation
This technology, the first phase in a suite of technologies designed to control autonomous (unmanned) vehicles, is a method of developing a model that characterizes the aerodynamics and/or thrust of an airplane or spacecraft. The model can be developed and flight validated in as little as a single flight by tracking data relevant to the aircraft response to controls and external forces acting on the vehicle. Current state of the art requires that repeated test flights be made to gather data from different flight conditions, followed by evaluation and analysis on the ground, and repeated over a number of flights, to eventually yield a combined linear, approximate model. This technology, however, can accomplish the development of a validated high-fidelity, global, nonlinear model in as little as a single flight. The technology is part of the Learn to Fly project to develop real-time models and controllers for autonomous aircraft and spacecraft. For application in piloted aircraft, the system can provide alerts in dangerous conditions, such as tail icing, through detecting abnormal aircraft responses. Potential applications include not only aircraft but also spacecraft or even marine craft, and self-driving cars and trucks.
materials and coatings
High Pressure Soft Lithography for Micro-topographical Patterning of Molded Polymers and Composites
This technology provides an efficient means to fabricate micro-topographical surface patterns or features. A polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), or similar elastomer, would incorporate a master pattern, which acts as a mold through which liquid resin material flows and hardens to create a rigid, inverse replica of the mold specific to its intended surface applications. One application of the technology is to create super-hydrophobic surfaces that protect against contamination and fouling. Another application is to improve adhesion between two parts in an adhesively bonded joints, which is of particular interest for composite parts where sanding could expose reinforcing fibers to degenerative environmental effects. Another use of the technology is to create surfaces that reduce drag in aerodynamic and hydrodynamic applications.
Ultrasonic Stir Welding
Ultrasonic Stir Welding is a solid state stir welding process, meaning that the weld work piece does not melt during the welding process. The process uses a stir rod to stir the plasticized abutting surfaces of two pieces of metallic alloy that forms the weld joint. Heating is done using a specially designed induction coil. The control system has the capability to pulse the high-power ultrasonic (HPU) energy of the stir rod on and off at different rates from 1-second pulses to 60-millisecond pulses. This pulsing capability allows the stir rod to act as a mechanical device (moving and stirring plasticized nugget material) when the HPU energy is off, and allowing the energized stir rod to transfer HPU energy into the weld nugget (to reduce forces, increase stir rod life, etc.) when the HPU energy is on. The process can be used to join high-melting-temperature alloys such as titanium, Inconel, and steel.