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Wetting the whistle in zero-G: Customizing existing valve shortens development time

When ILC Dover, designer and manufacturer of spacesuits for NASA's Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle missions,

began looking for an elastomeric valve supplier to upgrade an existing water dispensing device for their suit hydration system, they turned to LMS, Midland, MI. The two companies then worked together to design and produce a "spill-proof" system. An existing valve design--SureFlo®--was customized only slightly to meet the opening/closing pressure requirements and other relevant specs.

The hydration system within a spacesuit must be easy to use while not impairing movement. Once inside the suit, the astronaut has limited mobility and must have easy access to hydration equipment.

According to Brian Marini, project engineer for LMI Dover, "One of the main advantages of the LMS valve is that it is small enough so that it will fit into our existing hydration system without drastically changing the design of the system." The hydration system design requires an astronaut to both bite down and suck to obtain a drink of water. When the user stops drinking, the valve closes, preventing additional water flow. The new configuration was tested (and accepted) by several astronauts at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. Marini notes, "LMS's response time was one of the reasons we met our aggressive schedule. Starting with our design parameters, prototyping, testing and certification, final approval of the LMS silicone valve took less than 90 days. Normally the design, testing and certification process takes six to nine months. The fast turn-around time provided by LMS on this project enabled us to meet our launch date without any delays."

Earthbound applications include sports beverage dispensers, steam valves for microwaveable containers, condiment dispensing, spill-proof child cups, medical devices and pressure relief valves. This valve can dispense liquids, gases or powders from 0.25 psi to 100 psi.

Source: Designfax - Written by Stephanie Gooch