They can watch the tiniest particles come alive under a scanning electron microscope that has 100,000 times more magnifi cation than what is found in a high school labora- tory. And strong composite materials that once seemed im-
possible to cut, researchers and students are easily slicing away thanks to a powerful abrasive waterjet machine. HPMI has been successfully using an Omax 55100 JetMachining Center for the past six years to quickly and accurately cut a wide variety of components, some less than a quarter of an inch in size.
“We don’t always need the more expensive single- wall nanotubes to get the properties we want.”
“The composite materials we work with are really strong, and I can’t think of a material we haven’t cut on the Omax,” said Jerry Horne, an HPMI engineer who cuts materials for students and researchers. “It doesn’t matter how strong the material is because the Omax will cut through anything.” The machine is designed to accommodate the cutting of large, complex parts and can handle sheet materials of up to 5 × 10' (1.524 × 3.048 m) in dimension. Furthermore, its user-friendly controls simplify the programming of traditionally complex techniques. In fact, Horne can machine student components directly from a CAD drawing or DXF fi le.
The era of buckypaper use in production is getting closer, insist the scientists and engineers at HPMI. Ac- cording to Frank Allen, HPMI opera- tions director, the facility was producing buckypaper at the size of a quarter back when he joined the institute in 2001, and now it is making much larger sheets using a batch production process. Eleven years ago, the price of the
best quality single-walled nanotubes was approximately $500 a gram. Today,