Thread-Craft, Inc.
ANABISO 9001:2008 & AS9100:2009 Rev C Registered

Manufacturing of Alloy Steel Drilling Arm Ball - Screw Assembly for NASA

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Thread-Craft, Inc. was contracted by NASA to manufacture this mission critical drilling arm Ball - Screw assembly for the Curiosity Rover. This arm is used to drill into rock formations on Mars, collecting and analyzing rock samples. The most complicated part in the planning and manufacturing process was to maintain the radial orientation of features on the Ballnut, in relation to the hub end of the Ball - Screw. When the dog stops are engaged they must maintain radial relationship to all of the milled features on the hub end of the Ball - Screw. This required very intricate planning due to the timing of the ball thread in relation to these features. Additionally, this unit was being driven with a very small motor and could have no binding what so ever. It had to run extremely smooth, positioning accuracy and running condition was ultra-critical. This is literally a "one-of-a-kind" Ball - Screw, which had never been built before.

This assembly was manufactured completely on site at our state of the art, ISO 9001: 2008 certified facility. The screwshaft, ballnut, and ball bearings were composed of 4150, 9310, and 52100 alloy steel. The ball bearings were re-circulated by way of a multi-path ball return liner. Numerous processes were utilized to complete this project including turning and milling work using our advanced CNC turning and CNC milling capabilities. Parts were abraded to specific dimensions with OD and ID grinders. Internal and external CNC thread grinders were employed for the precision threading.

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Manufacturing of Alloy Steel Drilling Arm Ball - Screw Assembly for NASA

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The final dimensions were 2.750" in diameter x 8.25" long, with tightest tolerances held at .0001". The highest standards including AS9100C were adhered to, with a myriad of testing carried out for quality and accuracy. 10 units were developed to various stages for risk mitigation, 3 units completed and ultimately one selected and shipped to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California after a lead time of 6 months. For more information about this project please see the table below or contact us directly.

Alloy Steel Drilling Arm Ball - Screw Assembly for NASA - Project Details

Product Description This drilling arm is designed to drill into rock formations, collect and analyze rock samples from Mars through the drilling arm on Mars Curiosity Rover
Co-Engineering CNC Machining Capabilities Applied/Processes Primary:
Co-Engineering/Product Design
CNC Machining

Equipment Used to Manufacture Part CNC Lathes, CNC Mills, Electron Beam Welding, Wire EDM, Conventional EDM, OD Grinders, ID Grinders, External CNC Thread Grinder, Internal CNC Thread Grinder,
Overall Part Dimensions 2.750 Diameter x 8.25" long
Tightest Tolerances .0001
Material Used
Screw shaft: 4150 Alloy Steel
Ballnut: 9310 Alloy Steel
Ball Bearings: 52100 Alloy Steel
Material Finish Bare steel, do to no oxygen in space, no exotic stainless materials and/or platings were required.
Screw shaft
Ball Bearings
Multi Path Ball Return Liner
In process testing/inspection performed Dimensional Testing, Magnetic Particle Inspection, Hardness Testing, Certificate of Conformance/First Article Reports
Industry for Use Space Exploration
Volume 3 Units
Delivery/Turnaround Time 6 Months
Delivery Location Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California
Standards Met Customer Specifications, 2D CAD Drawing
ISO 9001: 2008
Product Name Mars Curiosity Drilling Arm Ball - Screw Assembly

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