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Automated Dynamics’ composite production and laser-based fibre placement technology has been chosen by NASA for continued research and development.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected Automated Dynamics (AD) of Schenectady, 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. AD explains that consideration is given to technical feasibility, innovation, and experience as well as the potential commercialisation of the proposed idea.
AD says it 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 emphasised in the project.
Specifically, AD explains that it will focus efforts on its sophisticated laser-based heating system used in the automated fibre 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 utilising 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, AD’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,” says 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% 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.”
AD says its project was chosen from a list of highly competitive proposals, and demonstrates their leadership and innovation in the composites field. Their unique process and cutting-edge manufacturing technology enable Automated Dynamics to consistently challenge the frontiers of composite structures and lead in the push for true in-situ, automated composite production.
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