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NASA installs giant composite material research robot

News International-French

19 Nov 2014

NASA's Langley Research Center is in the process of setting up an advanced composite research robot called ISAAC for Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites. 

Just to get ISAAC to the Hampton, Virginia facility was a challenge financially and physically. 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.

The 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.

The ISAAC project team got $1.3 million from NASA's Langley Center: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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.


More information: www.nasa.gov