June 26, 2014

In May, Elon Musk's SpaceX unveiled their next generation of the spacecraft, dubbed Dragon V2, designed to take a crew of astronauts to the International Space Station. Dragon V2 comes with new "SuperDraco" 16,000 lb-thrust engines that have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power. 3D printing allows the company to create robust and high-performing engine parts at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods, said Musk.

This week, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp company, announced that it has successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on a Bantam demonstration engine built entirely with 3D printing. This particular liquid oxygen/kerosene engine, dubbed "Baby Bantam" (because it is at the lower end of the Bantam engine family thrust range), has a thrust of 5,000 pounds.

Normally the engine consists of dozens of parts, but using 3D printing, Aerojet Rocketdyne was able to print the engine in just three components: the entire injector and dome assembly; the combustion chamber; and a throat and nozzle section.

RS-88 Rocket Engine Tested for Pad Abort Escape System Source: Wikipedia

"The demonstration of this engine, made completely with additive manufacturing, is another significant milestone in our path to changing propulsion affordability," said Jay Littles, director of Advanced Launch Propulsion Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "We are not just making a stand-alone chamber or injector derived from traditional design approaches. Rather, we are integrating the full capability of additive manufacturing processes to evolve a proven, reliable, affordable design. We are doing so with technical depth and rigor to meet our unparalleled quality and safety requirements."

The team also was able to reduce total design and manufacturing time from more than a year to a couple of months, and reduce the cost of the engine by approximately 65 percent. This engine test was part of a multi-year Aerojet Rocketdyne additive manufacturing development effort. In 2013, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne finished testing a rocket engine injector made through selective laser melting manufacturing technology. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and fabricated the injector by a method that employs high-powered laser beams to melt and fuse fine metallic powders into three dimensional structures.

This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make, but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost.

It is claimed the technology may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, saving American companies time and money.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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Chris wrote at 10/11/2014 10:05:51 PM:

Just perfect !!!

Karl reuning wrote at 6/27/2014 1:52:03 PM:

Technology takes time to gain acceptance. 3D printings is ripe for rapid adoption now. At my last company I sat across from an idle 3D printer for 5 year before the company started to use the printer again. Prior to that I work for a company that purchased microwave chambers built by a 3D process.

Patrick Cowan wrote at 6/27/2014 2:07:03 AM:

1/4 manufacturing time, 65% cost reduction, this is why the world is about to wake up to the benefits of 3D manufacturing.

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