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Beam-Deflection Control System for Deposition-Based Manufacturing

Improving system accuracy and efficiency, enhancing part quality

NASA invites companies to license a new technology that improves the accuracy and efficiency of ion- or electron-beam systems by using rastering to precisely direct the beam. Initially developed for NASA’s e-beam freeform fabrication (EBF3) system, this technology is applicable to any deposition-based manufacturing process that utilizes electron or ion beams. Tests have demonstrated that the technology is both functional and effective in finely controlling the location of the beam, improving the deposition process and quality of the resulting part.

If you would like more information about this technology, please contact:

The Technology Gateway
NASA's Langley Research Center
https://technologygateway.nasa.gov/

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Benefits

This technology’s ability to direct an electron or ion beam provides several benefits:

  • Improved melting of metal: The beam can direct the feedstock into the molten pool in a self-correcting manner, ensuring accurate bead geometry during deposition.
  • Reduced heating requirements: The beam can pre-heat the metal, allowing the entire deposition process to run cooler. Reducing the heat minimizes problems associated with melting alloying elements in a vacuum, lessens thermal residual stresses, and provides finer control over microstructures.
  • Targeted heating: The beam can be directed to precise locations at the process focal point and surrounding regions to control distortion, residual stress, material strength and quality, and surface shape, enhancing the quality of the finished part.
  • Extended manufacturing capabilities: The beam can create unique, previously impossible characteristics on the finished piece (e.g., etching a pattern on a part).
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Applications

In addition to its value to NASA’s EBF3 system, this technology can be useful in other manufacturing systems involving an electron or ion beam:

E-beam fabrication and manufacturing:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Custom part and small-batch manufacturing

Ion/E-beam processing:

  • Welding
  • Sputtering
  • Physical vapor deposition
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Technology Details

Screenshot

NASA created this technology (as well as other related technologies) as part of its effort to develop an EBF3 system for manufacturing large, complex parts in remote locations. NASA’s EBF3 system uses an electron beam to melt a metal wire and then accurately deposit the molten metal onto a substrate, building a part layer by layer according to computer-aided design (CAD) data.

Similar manufacturing systems use a defocused beam, with all of its energy directed into the pool of molten metal. However, researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center realized that controlling the beam would allow for more efficient use of its energy and better parts. It also could enable previously impossible manufacturing opportunities.

Tests show that this beam-deflection control system ensures that EBF3-manufactured parts meet metallurgical specifications consistently, with better surface properties and fewer residual stresses while using less energy.


How it works

thermal image
This thermal image illustrates how beam rastering was successfully used to direct the wire into the molten pool as well as to induce a square trailing edge on the molten pool.

NASA’s innovative technology uses advanced beam rastering (i.e., pulsing the beam off and on while moving it to a new focal coordinate) to control the beam’s direction and power. By precisely moving and focusing the beam in various locations during fabrication, the technology can selectively heat the metal being deposited, controlling multiple characteristics simultaneously.

In NASA’s EBF3 technology, which uses a metal wire as the feedstock, the rastering ensures that the wire does not move out of the molten puddle as it melts, resulting in consistent material delivery during deposition of each layer. Precise deposition is important to ensure high-quality parts because an error of as little as a few hundredths of an inch can become significant when repeated over multiple layers. In other deposition-based manufacturing systems, a similar approach can be used to control the temperature in the molten pool. (This aspect of the technology closely relates to the closed-loop process control technology, which also is available for license.)

Rastering also can be applied to the beam so that it provides more general heating. For example, directing the beam to apply a small amount of heat in front of (or behind) the melt pool provides pre-heating (or heat treatment) that yields a better deposition layer and, consequently, a better final part. Directing the beam also can reduce distortion and residual stress, strengthen the material by applying compressive stress, or aid in surface shaping.


Why it is better

Programming a rastering pattern on the beam ensures that the metal feedstock melts consistently and in a self-correcting manner without the need for sensors, although sensors and an adjustable raster pattern can be incorporated, allowing the system to be integrated into a closed-loop system. Regardless of the configuration, this approach successfully maintains process consistency and yields high-quality parts, as demonstrated in numerous tests.


Patents

NASA has filed for patent protection for this technology.

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Commercial Opportunity

This technology is part of NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP), which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry.

NASA invites companies to consider licensing the Use of Beam Deflection to Control Electron Beam Wire Deposition Processes (LAR-17245-1) technology described here for commercial applications.

Companies also may license any or all of the following additional technologies in conjunction with this technology:

  • Wire-Feed E-Beam Freeform Fabrication (MSC-23518-1)
  • Vapor-Barrier Vacuum-Isolation System (LAR-17695-1)
  • Method for Closed-Loop Process Control for Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication and Deposition Processes (LAR-17766-1)
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For More Information

If you would like more information about this technology, please contact:

The Technology Gateway
NASA's Langley Research Center
https://technologygateway.nasa.gov/

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This technology is owned by NASA's Langley Research Center
LAR-17245 (JS-0002)