Google Play icon

NASA Installs Giant Composite Material Research Robot

Share
Posted November 6, 2014

It looks like something out of a “Transformers” movie – a huge robotic arm that moves and spins to pick up massive heads filled with spools of carbon fibers, then moves in preprogrammed patterns to deposit those fibers onto a 40-foot long bed. But instead of transforming from machine to Autobot, it can transform epoxy and fibers into aerospace structures and parts.

issac_robot_1_0_crop

NASA’s Langley Research Center is in the process of setting up this advanced composite research capability that engineers are calling ISAAC for Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites. Just to get ISAAC to the Hampton, Virginia facility was a challenge financially and physically.

“We have worked for two years to obtain this precise robotic technology. But we proposed the idea more than six years ago,” said structural mechanics engineer Chauncey Wu. “It will really make a difference in our ability to understand composite materials and processes for use in aviation and space vehicles.”

The ISAAC robotic system, which recently arrived at NASA Langley, will manufacture composite structures and parts. Image Credit: NASA/Gary Banziger

Funding was one stumbling block. But Wu and his ISAAC project teammates Brian Stewart and Robert Martin were able to convince NASA Langley to provide about $1.4 million, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to kick in $1.1 million, and the Space Technology Mission Directorate and NASA Langley’s Space Technology and Exploration Directorate contribute a combined $200,000 to the multi-million dollar system cost.

Two trucks carried the multi-million dollar robot system across country from Washington state to Hampton, Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

Two trucks carried the multi-million dollar robot system across country from Washington state to Hampton, Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

The other challenge was the actual physical move of the ISAAC system. The system is only one of three in the world manufactured by Electroimpact, Inc., headquartered in Mukilteo, Washington. The other two are used for bulk manufacturing of composites, not for research as NASA intends.

Two 53-foot long covered flatbed trucks made the trek all the way across country to bring the robot to NASA Langley in Hampton, Virginia. The trucks arrived at the crack of dawn, before most employees, because they were so large.  Waiting for them was ISAAC’s new home – a big empty space in NASA Langley’s Advanced Manufacturing and Flight Test Articles Development Laboratory.

A huge crane from a local company barely had clearance to lift the ISAAC robot arm and set it down on the ground until technicians could install it on its track 40-foot long track. Image Credit: NASA/Kathy Barnstorff

A huge crane from a local company barely had clearance to lift the ISAAC robot arm and set it down on the ground until technicians could install it on its track 40-foot long track. Image Credit: NASA/Kathy Barnstorff

The robot is known for its precision work, but the choreography to place it inside the building had to be just as exact.

“We had to bring in a massive crane from a local company to lift ISAAC,” said Stewart. “There were only inches of clearance between the crane and the ceiling as they moved the robot arm and set it on the floor.”

A few weeks later the same crane returned to set the arm onto the track that it will use to lay down composite fibers. Technicians from Electroimpact still have a number of weeks to make sure all the electronics and pieces work so that ISAAC can begin doing the research that Langley engineers have been waiting to do.

Researchers plan to have ISAAC up and running by early 2015 with the first research customer the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Advanced Composites Project (ACP).

The crane returned two weeks later so the 21-foot tall robot arm could be placed on the track. The robot head will make large composite pieces by sliding up and down the track laying down epoxy and carbon fibers in precise patterns. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

The crane returned two weeks later so the 21-foot tall robot arm could be placed on the track. The robot head will make large composite pieces by sliding up and down the track laying down epoxy and carbon fibers in precise patterns. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

The project is a public-private partnership that is geared toward reducing the amount of time and money it takes to bring new, advanced composites from test tube to vehicles.

The goal of the ACP is to reduce the time for development, verification, and regulatory acceptance of new composite materials and design methods. NASA will meet this objective through the development and use of high fidelity and rigorous computational methods, new test protocols, and new inspection techniques.

NASA’s space projects also plan to use the ISAAC system in their research. The second project planned for the robot is ­­­­­­­­the Composites for Exploration Upper Stage (C-EUS) Project, a partnership between the Space Technology Mission Directorate and Human Exploration Mission Directorate that is led by the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The C-EUS Project is a 3-year effort to design, build, test and address flight certification of a large composite shell suitable for the second stage of the Space Launch System.

Langley’s role in the C-EUS Project will be to lead the design, manufacture and testing of the shell’s structural joints, as well as leading the overall structural and thermal analyses.

Source: NASA

Featured news from related categories:

Technology Org App
Google Play icon
85,465 science & technology articles

Most Popular Articles

  1. New treatment may reverse celiac disease (October 22, 2019)
  2. "Helical Engine" Proposed by NASA Engineer could Reach 99% the Speed of Light. But could it, really? (October 17, 2019)
  3. The World's Energy Storage Powerhouse (November 1, 2019)
  4. Plastic waste may be headed for the microwave (October 18, 2019)
  5. Universe is a Sphere and Not Flat After All According to a New Research (November 7, 2019)

Follow us

Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Tumblr   RSS   Newsletter via Email