Development of novel manufacturing processes for structures with superior mechanical properties has long been identified as one of the critical needs for NASA. The focus of the current solicitation in the area of specialty materials is specifically on bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) and processes that allow fabrication of components with thin walls and high precision. Our proposed project focuses on these technologies. Thermoplastically net shaped BMG components can bring significant benefits, including increased reliability, high level of functional integration, drastic reduction in required machining, lower cost and faster lead times. This is achieved due to exceptional strength and elasticity of BMGs, as well as novel processing methods, developed and patented by Prof. Schroers at Yale and Supercool Metals. In this project, we focus on net shaping of precise robotic components for space applications using BMGs. BMG robotic components are highly attractive for use at low temperature and harsh environments (such as Europa mission) due to improved mechanical properties and ability to operate unlubricated. Beyond this, thermoplastic forming technology of BMGs has broader implications in areas of small satellites, pressure vessels and structural space applications in general.
Combining the properties of best structural metals with the processability of thermoplastics brings unique opportunities that will have a vast impact on a broad range of industries. BMG technology enables to significantly improve properties, develop new architectures and add functionalities to a variety of industrial and commercial products. Specifically, net shaping of BMGs is highly attractive for commercial and industrial robotics applications, electronics, defense, aerospace, automotive and biomedical industries. Currently, Supercool Metals has several contracts with large commercial companies in the watch industry for production of prototype watch movement components based on our TPF net shaping and molding processes. We are also working with electronics companies on development of casings for mobile phones and laptops and with aerospace companies on replacement of Ti-based components.