NASA has selected Automated Dynamics (Schenectady, NY, US) for Phase I of the 2015 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The program, which is run in three phases, offers small businesses the opportunity to propose unique ideas for fulfilling specific research and developmental needs of NASA as they pursue future exploration. Consideration is given to technical feasibility, innovation and experience as well as the potential commercialization of the proposed idea.
Automated Dynamics (ADC) will begin work on a project revolving around lightweight materials and structures and advanced manufacturing and assembly. Critical to NASA’s missions, technologies that will allow for reduced mass, improved performance, decreased costs, and material scalability will be emphasized in the project.
Specifically, ADC will focus efforts on their sophisticated laser based heating system used in the automated fiber placement (AFP) of thermoplastic composite (TPC) structures. The result, in-situ TPC AFP, is an additive manufacturing process for high-performance composite designs; a true out-of-autoclave (OoA) process. The system enables processing speeds three to five times faster than traditional methods of utilizing a hot gas torch or infrared lamp, and aids in simplifying the manufacturing process as a whole. In addition, significant cost savings are achieved through a near 70% reduction in energy consumption from the removal of an oven, autoclave, and freezer from the process while the laser heating system nets a further 80% energy savings in contrast to hot-gas based methods. With the ability to create a lighter, more durable structure through the use of thermoplastic materials while still cutting production time, ADC’s technology has few limits in its application to NASA’s needs.
“We are very excited to have been chosen by NASA for this award,” said Ralph Marcario, vice president of sales and marketing for Automated Dynamics. “The process efficiencies associated with laser consolidation, and the related throughput enhancement, hold tremendous promise in making 100 percent additive manufactured large scale thermoplastic composite structures a commercial reality. This funding from NASA will go a long way toward further refinement of this exciting technology.”
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