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Solid Freeform Fabrication: An Enabling Technology for Future Space MissionsThe emerging class of direct manufacturing processes known as Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) employs a focused energy beam and metal feedstock to build structural parts directly from computer aided design (CAD) data. Some variations on existing SFF techniques have potential for application in space for a variety of different missions. This paper will focus on three different applications ranging from near to far term to demonstrate the widespread potential of this technology for space-based applications. One application is the on-orbit construction of large space structures, on the order of tens of meters to a kilometer in size. Such structures are too large to launch intact even in a deployable design; their extreme size necessitates assembly or erection of such structures in space. A low-earth orbiting satellite with a SFF system employing a high-energy beam for high deposition rates could be employed to construct large space structures using feedstock launched from Earth. A second potential application is a small, multifunctional system that could be used by astronauts on long-duration human exploration missions to manufacture spare parts. Supportability of human exploration missions is essential, and a SFF system would provide flexibility in the ability to repair or fabricate any part that may be damaged or broken during the mission. The system envisioned would also have machining and welding capabilities to increase its utility on a mission where mass and volume are extremely limited. A third example of an SFF application in space is a miniaturized automated system for structural health monitoring and repair. If damage is detected using a low power beam scan, the beam power can be increased to perform repairs within the spacecraft or satellite structure without the requirement of human interaction or commands. Due to low gravity environment for all of these applications, wire feedstock is preferred to powder from a containment, handling, and safety standpoint. The energy beams may be either electron beam or laser, and the developments required for either energy source to achieve success in these applications will be discussed.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Langley Research Center
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Taminger, Karen M. B.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA United States)
Hafley, Robert A.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA United States)
Dicus, Dennis L.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2002
Subject Category
Computer Programming And Software
Meeting Information
Meeting: 2002 International Conference on Metal Powder Deposition for Rapid Manufacturing
Location: San Antonio, TX
Country: United States
Start Date: April 8, 2002
End Date: April 10, 2002
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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