Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Star Trek-like Replicator? Electron Beam Device Makes Metal Parts, One Layer At A Time

A group of engineers working on a novel manufacturing technique at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., have come up with a new twist on the popular old saying about dreaming and doing: 'If you can slice it, we can build it.

"You start with a drawing of the part you want to build, you push a button, and out comes the part," said Karen Taminger, the technology lead for the Virginia-based research project that is part of NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Program.

In reality, EBF3 works in a vacuum chamber, where an electron beam is focused on a constantly feeding source of metal, which is melted and then applied as called for by a drawing -- one layer at a time -- on top of a rotating surface until the part is complete.

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