Next generation, 3D-TPS heat shields based on 3D weaving technology offer potential for increased mass efficiency relative to legacy solutions. However, width, thickness and unit cell size combinations of 3D-TPS designs being considered for future missions are pushing the limits of current 3D weaving looms and driving the need for new or significantly modified set-ups. With this SBIR Phase 1 proposal, TEAM Inc. seeks to develop a warp tension control and as-woven thickness feedback loop for integration onto both current and future 3D weaving looms. The proposed effort would significantly advance industry state of the art for monitoring, control and repeatability of thick, multi-layer 3D woven structures. In Phase 1, manual warp yarn tension and thickness measurements will be obtained from a 3D loom set-up in order to quantify the basic relationship between warp yarn tension and as-woven fabric thickness for a relevant, dual layer 3D-TPS weave construction. In parallel, off the shelf, electronic yarn tension and thickness sensors from the traditional 2D textile and web handling industries will be researched and evaluated for eventual integration onto a loom set-up. Finally, a novel “mini-warp beam” mechanism will be designed and installed onto a 3D weaving loom set-up to demonstrate ability to successfully control and dial in warp yarn tension(s) in a cost effective manner. Results of Phase 1 will inform design and implementation of a fully automated in-line tension / thickness control system in Phase 2 including scale of the mini-false beam concept to a full scale 3D-TPS set-up with tens of thousands of ends of warp fibers, and integration of the system with TEAM's existing PLC controlled loom programming logic.
The proposed technology is directly relevant to future NASA missions that would leverage NASA's various 3D weaving based heat shield technologies, including deployable decelerators and 3D-TPS. Specific missions may include Venus and Titan, Mars sample return (MSR) and future outer gas giant missions (Uranus and Neptune).
The proposed technology is relevant to a wide array of applications for which 3D woven preforms are being used and/or developed. Some of the most mature applications to date include net shape preforms for aircraft engine vanes, blades and shrouds, and thick 3D preforms for composite armor and oil and gas components.