NASA Installs Giant Composites Research Bot

This huge robotic arm moves and spins to pick up massive heads filled with spools of carbon fibres, then moves in preprogrammed patterns to deposit those fibres onto a 40-foot long bed, the machine will be used to transform epoxy and fibres into aerospace structures and parts.

The machinery was delivered to NASA’s Langley Research Centre which is in the process of setting up the 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 both financially and physically.

Structural mechanics engineer Chauncey Wu said;

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

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.

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 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.