NASA’s recently installed a new custom Industrial Oven at its Kennedy Space Centre which researchers will use to cure various vacuum bagged composite components.
The customised oven supplied by Lewco will allow NASA researchers to lay-up various composite materials on custom tooling, and then place a vacuum bag over the layup to seal it to the tool. The tools are then placed on a cart to be loaded into the oven. Once in the oven, vacuum hoses are connected to the sealed bags and a vacuum pump removes air. Vacuum transducers continuously monitor the vacuum level to confirm compliance with the part recipe. Then the heating cycle begins.
The oven has a maximum operating temperature of 500°F. and has a minimum temperature uniformity of +/- 5°F. at this temperature. It’s controlled via a state-of-the-art Eurotherm Nanodac system that gives NASA the ability to create and store specific ramp/soak recipes for different composite curing processes.
Along with full data logging capability to record and analyse different batch results. Per specification, the system can continuously monitor up to six type “J” thermocouples located inside the oven, that will automatically adjust oven temperatures based on lagging thermocouple data.
The investment in this oven is relatively minor for NASA, and will provides them with the technology to help develop new composite parts and materials.