Drop stitch reinforced textiles are a subset of 3D woven textiles that are well suited for flexible inflatable composite applications. These flexible composites provide a dimensionally-stable solution for inflatable structures, enabling creation of various deployable foldable shapes and cross-sections. Incorporating pile yarns between face reinforcement layers yields precise control over the inflated thickness of a drop stitch reinforced flexible composite. Inflation pressure and reinforcement pattern contribute to create a stiff structural material. Many of the recent advancements in drop stitch reinforcement technology have been focused on the extension of proven shapes and structures to new applications.
The innovation in this proposal focuses on incorporating structurally-efficient thin plies into the fiber reinforcement in inflatable drop stitch composites. Thin-ply reinforcement will improve absolute and specific in-plane and bending stiffnesses and strengths. These performance improvements are critical to enabling the use of drop stitch reinforced inflatable composites in high-performance applications such as space exploration. Navatek proposes to develop processing methods to incorporate thin-ply reinforcement into lightweight drop stitch inflatable composites, and to develop analysis tools and test methods to quantify the resulting improvement in mechanical performance critical to space applications.
NASA has identified high-performance inflatable structures as technologies that could benefit from thin-ply reinforcement. These potential NASA applications would directly benefit from high-performance, deployable thin-ply inflatable composites with drop stitch reinforcement.
♦ Space habitats (Ice Home Mars Habitat, lunar exploration)
♦ Composite booms; landing struts
♦ Reentry decelerators
♦ Advanced Inflatable Airlock (AIA) for Space Launch Initiative
♦ Expandable activity modules
Lightweight, deployable structures, including:
♦ Expeditionary structures; shelters for disaster relief scenarios
♦ Infrastructure (airplane hangars, maintenance facilities, temporary bridges, docks, causeways)
♦ Aircraft lifting bags; tactical structures (U.S. DoD); Rescue sleds
♦ Consumer marine (boat floors, stand-up paddleboards, inflatable vessels)