NASA installs Lewco oven for R&D

The electric oven will be part of efforts to explore out-of-autoclave materials.

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NASA’s Kennedy Space Center recently installed a new LEWCO Industrial Oven, which researchers will use in their R&D laboratory to cure various vacuum bagged composite components. The ISO 9001:2008-certified LEWCO, Inc. (Sandusky, OH, US) says it was selected for this project due to its ability to meet the strict specifications for government and aerospace performance requirements.

After talking with NASA and receiving specifications, LEWCO applications engineers proposed a custom industrial oven for the composite vacuum curing process. LEWCO’s engineers utilized electric, low watt density trademarked Incoloy heaters with dual airflow to efficiently deliver heat to the oven workspace. The oven has a maximum operating temperature of 260 deg.C and LEWCO guarantees a minimum temperature uniformity of +/- 5°F at this temperature. Prior to shipment, per standard testing procedure, LEWCO conducted a 9-point temperature uniformity survey based on AMS2750-E testing requirements. The composite oven easily exceeded the requirement, achieving results better than +/- 5°F.

The oven is controlled via a state-of-the-art Eurotherm Nanodac system. This system gives NASA the ability to create and store specific ramp/ soak recipes for different composite curing processes, as well as full data logging capability to record and analyze different batch results. Per specification, LEWCO Controls engineers programmed the system to continuously monitor up to six type “J” thermocouples located inside the oven, which will automatically adjust oven temperatures based on lagging thermocouple data. All vacuum transducer ata is also recorded.

According to senior applications engineer Lou Schaefer “The investment in this oven is relatively minor for NASA, but it is one that will quickly pay off and last forever, if properly maintained. It provides them with the technology to help develop new composite parts and materials. We’re excited to have won this contract and developed a great relationship.”