Feb.23, 2013

At the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center additive manufacturing is used to create parts for a next-generation rocket that will launch astronauts to the most distant destinations ever.

"Our team's innovative work here at Marshall and the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing is just one example of how NASA is helping to reinvigorate America's manufacturing sector," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Obama wants to get humans to Mars by the mid 2030s, NASA needs to speed up the building process.

"As NASA pushes the boundaries of exploration, our use of innovative techniques will allow us to build parts for everything from satellites to spacecraft more quickly and more affordably."

NASA is using selective laser melting, a process that makes three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model, to create a diverse portfolio of parts at six of its centers. The M2 Cusing machine they used is built by Concept Laser -- a division of Hoffman Innovation Group of Lichtenfels, Germany.

(NASA materials engineer Nancy Tolliver, center, and Frank Ledbetter, right, materials and manufacturing division chief in the Engineering Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., inspect three-dimensional hardware and parts fashioned in the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing Rapid Prototyping Facility at Marshall. | Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

The emerging technology will build parts for America's next flagship rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, which is designed to take humans, equipment and experiments beyond low Earth orbit to nearby asteroids and eventually to Mars. Some of the "printed" engine parts will be structurally tested and used in hot-fire tests of a J-2X engine later this year. The J-2X will be used as the upper stage engine for the SLS.

There are two major benefits to this process, which are major considerations for the Space Launch System Program: savings and safety.

"This process significantly reduces the manufacturing time required to produce parts from months to weeks or even days in some cases," said Andy Hardin, the integration hardware lead for the Engines Office in SLS. "It's a significant improvement in affordability, saving both time and money. Also, since we're not welding parts together, the parts are structurally stronger and more reliable, which creates an overall safer vehicle." It turns out these 3D printed parts can handle more stress from the launch than any other welded part.

The goal is to use selective laser melting to manufacture parts on the first SLS test flight in 2017.

(NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, center, talks with Frank Ledbetter, right, chief of the nonmetallic materials and manufacturing division at Marshall, about the use of 3D printing and prototyping technology to create parts for the Space Launch System. Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

According to a study by the Washington-area-based Tauri Group, the agency contributed $5 billion to U.S. manufacturing industry in 2012.

"Last year, NASA invested a combined $17 million in advanced manufacturing in five NASA programs analyzed by a just-released study -- SLS, commercial crew, the James Webb Telescope, the International Space Station and the Space Technology Program," Bolden said. "These investments in innovation are enabling future space missions, bettering life on earth and benefiting America's economy."

Watch video of the SLM machine and see it in action:






Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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I like Pie Do you Like Pie wrote at 5/14/2013 1:29:48 AM:

I like pie, now I know there's no i in team but there is in pie. and that's what counts!

Adnan Eid wrote at 3/13/2013 9:51:38 AM:

I truly believe that all of the crazy governments of our planet should stop spending their wealth on armament and donate all of that to NASA for their creative researches…

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