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Project TitleNASA's EBF3: The Future of Art-to-Part Manufacturing
Track CodeJS-0002-LST
Short Description

NASA is making tomorrow's rapid prototyping and manufacturing technologies available today. Companies are invited to license an innovative system for performing electron-beam freeform fabrication (EBF3) that offers significant advantages over traditional e-beam and laser-based systems.

Abstract

NASA is making tomorrow's rapid prototyping and manufacturing technologies available today. Companies are invited to license an innovative system for performing electron-beam freeform fabrication (EBF3) that offers significant advantages over traditional e-beam and laser-based systems. The core of NASA's EBF3 system uses a wire-feed design to deliver quality parts that are better than cast and similar to wrought materials while minimizing excess material. Multiple wires can be used to introduce multiple materials during part manufacturing, creating new alloys or layered parts. The system costs significantly less to build than others and includes other cutting-edge improvements, enabling companies previously hesitant to enter the market to compete and win in the expanding rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing market.

 
Tagselectrical & electronics*, fabrication, manufacturing equipment*, portable, rapid prototyping, three dimensional shapes
 
Posted DateFeb 28, 2012 12:37 PM

Client Contact Information

Fuentek Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology, please contact us by phone or e-mail: (919) 249-0327, MSC23518@fuentek.com.

Promotional Title

NASA's EBF3: The Future of Art-to-Part Manufacturing

Project Subtitle

For reduced fatigue, improved safety, and greater efficiency

Technology Summary

NASA is making tomorrow’s rapid prototyping and manufacturing technology available today.Companies are invited to license an innovative system for performing electron-beam freeform fabrication (EBF3) that offers significant advantages over traditional e-beam and laser-based systems. NASA’s EBF3 system uses a wire-feed design to deliver quality parts that are better than cast and similar to wrought materials while optimizing material consumption. Multiple wires can be used to introduce multiple materials during part manufacturing, creating new alloys or layered parts. Most importantly, the system costs significantly less to build than others, enabling companies previously hesitant to enter the market to compete and win in the expanding rapid prototyping and manufacturing market.

Additional technical details are presented below. For more information about this licensing and joint development opportunity, please contact us by phone or e-mail: (919) 249-0327, MSC23518@fuentek.com.

Benefits

  • Lower material costs: Wastes less material than traditional subtractive manufacturing (i.e., machining) processes
  • High strength parts: Uses real engineering alloys, such as Ti-6Al-4V and Al 2219, in standard wire forms, rather than specialized metallic powders required with direct metal laser sintering processes
  • Compound material properties: Allows deposition of multiple alloys to create parts where material chemistry can vary according to functional part requirements (e.g., changing cross-sectional strength on an airplane wing spar)
  • Lower power, higher safety: Requires less power than machines derived from traditional e-beam welders, which lowers operational power costs and radiation, thereby increasing operator safety
  • Versatile part envelope: Produces a wide range of part sizes, from a few inches to tens of feet
  • Mobile and rugged: Can be relocated and has been successfully demonstrated on an aircraft in 0-g flight without requiring time-consuming alignment procedures

Applications

Medical

  • Human bone replacement parts

Automotive and motorsports

  • Custom and replacement parts

Aerospace structural components

  • New structural components with high buy-to-fly ratios (such as bulkheads or complex housings)
  • Replacement parts for aging aircraft

Replacement parts in remote or hostile locations

  • Military forward-operating locations
  • Seafaring ships
  • Offshore oil rigs
  • Polar research stations

Three-dimensional models for new designs

  • Rapid iterative prototyping

Metals deposition and treating

  • Plating, structural mending, and spot etching and heating

Overview

NASA’s innovative e-beam freeform fabrication system, which was developed to enable parts manufacturing in the zero-gravity environment of space, offers significant benefits for rapid prototyping and manufacturing here on Earth.

Companies currently providing only laser-based services (e.g., 3D stereolithography, direct metal laser sintering [DMLS]) can use NASA’s EBF3 system to expand their offerings, take advantage of the benefits of e-beam manufacturing (e.g., a wide variety of metal-based parts, reduced waste), and eliminate common drawbacks associated with laser/powder-based e-beam systems (e.g., lengthy cooling periods, part size restricted by fixed powder box dimensions).

Companies offering e-beam fabrication will find that EBF3’s need for lower accelerating voltages (typically 20kV or less) eliminates many of the safety and shielding requirements necessary with higher power (typically 60-200 kV) systems that are derived from e-beam welding technologies.

How It Works

The Core Technology

The core of the EBF3 system is an electron-beam gun, wire feeder, and positioning system enclosed in an aluminum vacuum chamber. Like other e-beam systems, the NASA system focuses the beam to melt a material, in this case metal wire, which is then accurately deposited layer by layer according to computer-aided design (CAD) data to fabricate a three-dimensional structural part without the need for a die or mold.

Unlike other e-beam systems, which operate at 60–200 kV, NASA’s technology can create parts using about 20 kV accelerating voltage. The system can be used to make parts from a wide range of materials (e.g., titanium, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel, etc.) as well as alloyed and layered parts via multiple wire feeds. The size of parts will be dependent upon the size of the system’s build envelope, which can be scalable from a few inches to tens of feet or even larger.

Unique Enhancements

In addition to the core system, NASA has developed the following innovations, which can be licensed either with NASA’s EBF3 or individually for use in other applications:

Why It's Better

The EBF3 system offers the promise of a nearly unrestricted part build envelope. Due to the low power requirements, the complete unit can be as small as an office desk. For very small and lightweight operational environments, the deposition unit can be reduced to the size of a desktop computer, with an umbilical cord to provide connection to the required power supply and vacuum pumps. A system that integrates EBF3’s vacuum-isolation enhancement with a maneuverable, positioning platform (e.g., an industrial robotic arm) eventually will be capable of building any size or shape complex part.

NASA’s EBF3 system is less expensive than other systems. NASA installed its system for $250K; however, a commercialized system is expected to cost significantly less. Furthermore, the EBF3’s low-power design offers significantly reduced operating costs and minimizes the shielding required to comply with radiation safety regulations.

Other cost savings are possible because of the NASA system’s reduced use of material compared to other systems. EBF3 uses a full 100% of the material for the part with no residual material contamination. This offers an advantage over powder-based e-beam systems, which require residual material to be recaptured and recertified before it can be reused. In addition, parts made with NASA’s EBF3 system can be used or shipped immediately with only minimal need for cooling.

Because two or more wires can be fed into the system, EBF3 enables the manufacturing of multi-material parts. The system can create a wide variety of never-before-possible alloy-based parts by feeding two wires simultaneously (at either constant or variable rates). Alternatively, the wires can be fed sequentially to create layered parts with better surface properties. In the case of industrial plating, EBF3 could offer a high-quality alternative to traditional plating (e.g., chrome plating) while allowing manufacturers to better comply with environmental regulations.

The technology works exceptionally well with such alloys as Ti-6Al-4V and Al 2219.

  • Sets optimized for metal, plastic, and brittle ceramics
  • Patent Information

    NASA has patented this technology under U.S. Patent No. 7,168,935 and has applied for additional patents.

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