We propose to investigate the utilization of additive manufacturing (AM) techniques for the fabrication of analytical instrumentation especially those requiring high or ultra-high vacuum environment to function. This includes particle optic systems such as electron and ion microscopes, X-ray sources, and mass spectrometers. By leveraging AM, the weight, cost, and development time can all be significantly reduced, further enabling the exploration capabilities of NASA programs.
Among AM processes we propose to utilize stereolithographic (SLA) printing due to its ability to provide the highest resolution while producing void-free prints with little built in stress that could later deform the part. The prints will use engineering resins able to survive high temperatures >200˚C to survive the harsh environment of space. In addition to the base material, plating-on-plastic will be used to form thick (50-100µm) copper/nickel layer that further strengthens the part while reducing outgassing to that of other metal surfaces and provides the electrostatic surface. For parts needing to remain electrically isolating, atomic layer deposition of alumna (Al2O3) can be used to mitigate outgassing, or the part can be printed directly into a ceramic-photopolymer resin which is later fired to produce a fully ceramic part.
For this proposal we will design test articles to verify outgassing performance, measure part accuracy, perform electrical testing on ceramic stand-offs fabricated via AM, and produce an assembled mock-up of a focused ion column to vet the assembly methodology and test high voltage stand-off strength.