Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printed for Rocket Engines

2020-06-26

Tessa Blokland  

Aerojet-Rocketdyne-3-D-Printed-Copper-Thrust-Chamber-Assembly-2_900x600

As you might know, I am not an engineer and I have no clue how a rocket works. But I do see and can very much appreciate the craftsmanship when it comes to creating complex parts, which you can find in any 3D printed rocket engine. There are quite a number of space companies that use 3D printing in their products. The main reasons are reduction of costs, creating lightweight parts, and new innovative 3D printed-in-one-parts for optimizing fuel use, better burning qualities, and material use. Here are some examples of great innovations in the space industry.

The first 3D printed rocket is from Relativity Space. Their aim is to be the first space company to successfully launch a fully 3D printed rocket into orbit. Thanks to 3D printing, changes to the parts can be efficiently made via CAD software. Not only has this cut production costs, but it has also simplified the usual skilled labor requirements needed to build and construct rockets.

Orbex, a British spaceflight company, designed a 3D printed engine in a single piece, printed by German 3D printed metal service provider SLM Solutions. One of the key factors in the engine’s production is that it is made in a single piece, eradicating joints and strengthening the part’s overall integrity.

The 3D printed E-2 by Launcher is also 3D printed as a single piece, reducing costs and enabling the highest performance regenerative cooling design. The combustion chamber is 3D printed in copper alloy.

The most special feature in this 3D printed rocket engine is that it designed using AI. The algorithm of Hyperganic used the data to generate the geometry of the final piece from the bottom up. On the website, Hyperganic‘s design director Duy-Anh Pham explains that their engine, in contrast to a traditional rocket engine, is made up of only one piece, that has been designed to have the lowest weight and most effective cooling system, and so the highest possible performance for a given rocket.

The 3D printed AR1’s pre-burner, designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, drives a rocket engine’s turbomachinery. The AR1 is 3D printed using a burn resistant nickel-based superalloy, which, in combination with 3D printing, eliminates the need for metal coatings. The company was already familiar with additive manufacturing, because of their 3D printed copper thrust chamber for its RL-10 rocket engine (see top image), which successfully passed the hot-fire testing.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3DPrinted for Rocket Engines

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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