Aug. 20, 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. A month later, 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" has a thrust of 5,000 pounds. Using 3D printing, Aerojet Rocketdyne was able to print the engine in just three components, and using 3D printing, Aerojet Rocketdyne was able to print the engine in just three components, 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.

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced on August 18, 2014 that the company was recently awarded a contract by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base through the Defense Production Act Title III Office.

The contract will secure multiple large selective laser melting machines to develop liquid rocket engine applications for national security space launch services. Aerojet Rocketdyne and its subcontractors will design and develop larger scale parts to be converted from conventional manufacturing to 3D printing.

"Our liquid rocket engines have been used for half a century and our products are highly efficient and complex with a safety and reliability record that is unparalleled," said Jeff Haynes, program manager of Additive Manufacturing at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "Incremental manufacturing advances have been applied over the history of these programs with great success. Additive manufacturing shifts these advances into high gear and ultimately transforms how these engines are produced."

Under the contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will make parts ranging from simple, large ducts to complex heat exchangers, and include metals such as nickel, copper and aluminum alloys. The program scope is expected to replace the need for castings, forgings, plating, machining, brazing and welding.

"We have developed and successfully demonstrated additive-manufactured hardware over the last four years but the machines have been limited in size to 10-inch cubes," said Steve Bouley, vice president of Space Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

"These next generation systems are about six times larger, enabling more options for our rocket engine components. We are extremely honored to have received this contract, and foresee the day when additive-manufactured engines are used to boost and place important payloads into orbit. The end result will be a more efficient, cost-effective engine."

 


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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