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Entech Innovative, NASA Team Up for Translucent FRP Development
Long pursued and soon to be realized, the uses for a structural transparent and/or translucent moldable composite, such as fiberglass, are endless - from architectural iconic details to theme park ride vehicles and lighting enhancements the utilizations are endless.
The solution to this groundbreaking material is closer than ever now that Entech Innovative Engineering is part of the NASA Technology Docking Program, a strategic alliance between NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast. The program pairs the tremendous scientific talent and capabilities of NASA with local Space Coast companies to overcome technical challenges and provide new or better products to market quicker than otherwise possible.
Entech Innovative Engineering Owner John Marhoefer (left) with NASA’s Joni Richards and Entech’s Jeff Stuckey at a recent Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast meeting about the NASA Technology Docking Program.
There are instances where NASA’s technical assistance ends up benefitting the federal agency.
If fiberglass transparency becomes a reality while maintaining or increasing the strength, could this be considered for the windows of the moon habitat and other deep space applications? Would it be more lightweight than window materials used for the Space Shuttle, which was made with aluminum silicate glass and fused silica glass?
Entech’s Docking Program Partner continues to provide proven research about using continuous strand mat in the infusion process for specialty infused parts. When the part is removed from the mold, you can see right through the glass layer.
Another successful fiberglass panel produced used a vacuum infusion process with a clear casting resin. Allowing the preformed fiberglass to sit underneath a vacuum for 24 hours before adding resin also contributed to a clear fiberglass test panel.
Pulling out all the moisture and as much air as possible prior to the infusion process is the greatest contributor to the transparency of the panel. Entech’s next step is to experiment with acrylics and a clear polyester resin to achieve better translucency.
"This effort is about connecting our regional industry with NASA's technology, capabilities and resources, with the goal of solving technology challenges together and driving economic successes for the region," said Elizabeth Huy, EDC senior manager of business development. “Sometimes private companies just need the reassurance that they are going in the right direction. Other times, they need additional consultations and technical assistance.”
The new translucent product has gained the interest of ride manufacturers of whom are in preliminary discussions with Entech for multiple uses of the Fiber-Reinforced Plastic. These new groundbreaking products are expected to create diverse applications in themed and architectural expressions of form and light. Visit www.entechinnovative.com for future updates.
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