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Self-Advancing Step-Tap DrillsSelf-advancing tool bits that are hybrids of drills and stepped taps make it possible to form threaded holes wider than about 1/2 in. (about 13 mm) without applying any more axial force than is necessary for forming narrower pilot holes. These self-advancing stepped-tap drills were invented for use by space-suited astronauts performing repairs on reinforced carbon/carbon space-shuttle leading edges during space walks, in which the ability to apply axial drilling forces is severely limited. Self-advancing stepped-tap drills could also be used on Earth for making wide holes without applying large axial forces. A self-advancing stepped-tap drill (see figure) includes several sections having progressively larger diameters, typically in increments between 0.030 and 0.060 in. (between about 0.8 and about 1.5 mm). The tip section, which is the narrowest, is a pilot drill bit that typically has a diameter between 1/8 and 3/16 in. (between about 3.2 and about 4.8 mm). The length of the pilot-drill section is chosen, according to the thickness of the object to be drilled and tapped, so that the pilot hole is completed before engagement of the first tap section. Provided that the cutting-edge geometry of the drill bit is optimized for the material to be drilled, only a relatively small axial force [typically of the order of a few pounds (of the order of 10 newtons)] must be applied during drilling of the pilot hole. Once the first tap section engages the pilot hole, it is no longer necessary for the drill operator to apply axial force: the thread engagement between the tap and the workpiece provides the axial force to advance the tool bit. Like the pilot-drill section, each tap section must be long enough to complete its hole before engagement of the next, slightly wider tap section. The precise values of the increments in diameter, the thread pitch, the rake angle of the tap cutting edge, and other geometric parameters of the tap sections must be chosen, in consideration of the workpiece material and thickness, to prevent stripping of threads during the drilling/tapping operation. A stop-lip or shoulder at the shank end of the widest tap section prevents further passage of the tool bit through the hole.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Other - NASA Tech Brief
Pettit, Donald R.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Camarda, Charles J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Penner, Ronald K.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Franklin, Larry D.
(Action Tool Service, Inc. United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 2007
Publication Information
Publication: NASA Tech Briefs, February 2007
Subject Category
Technology Utilization And Surface Transportation
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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