Development of a Prototype Low-Voltage Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication System
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NASA’s Langley Research Center and Johnson Space Center are developing a solid freeform fabrication system utilizing an electron beam energy source and wire feedstock. This system will serve as a testbed for exploring the influence of gravitational acceleration on the deposition process and will be a simplified prototype for future systems that may be deployed during long-duration space missions for assembly, fabrication, and production of structural and mechanical replacement components. Critical attributes for this system are compactness, minimal mass, efficiency in use of feedstock material, energy use efficiency, and safety. The use of a low-voltage (<15kV) electron beam energy source will reduce radiation so that massive shielding is not required to protect adjacent personnel. Feedstock efficiency will be optimized by use of wire, and energy use efficiency will be achieved by use of the electron beam energy source. This system will be evaluated in a microgravity environment using the NASA KC-135A aircraft.