Nov 18, 2015 | By Benedict

Metal Technology, an Albany, Oregon based custom manufacturing firm, has announced that it is working with the NASA Johnson Space Centre to develop 3D printed rocket engine components. Founded in 1971, MTI specializes in reactive, refractory and high temperature metals.

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you’ll have noticed that NASA is keen to employ additive manufacturing technology as much as possible in its future projects. The last few months have seen the space gurus announce a collaboration with Shapeways and Whiteclouds, organize a 3D printing design competition for children, and test 3D printed F-1 rocket engine parts. Clearly, 3D printing is taking off in a big way in the world of space travel.

NASA currently has several business units each working on individual projects as part of the administration’s general effort to perfect digital manufacturing methods such as metal 3D printing. As well as being able to print complete components precisely and seamlessly, additive manufacturing technology has even been earmarked for use in space, as scientists back on Earth would be able to design new products and components for astronauts to then print off for immediate use.

Additive manufacturing techniques are also being used in the development of next generation rocket engine parts. Teams of propulsion engineers and scientists are constantly striving to use 3D printing in ways that avoid the constraints of traditional manufacturing techniques, with the dual aims of increasing performance and reducing weight.

After producing traditionally manufactured metal components for decades, MTI has embraced metal 3D printing, and its skill in the field has been recognized by NASA. The space administration has called upon the Oregon based metal workers to produce Inconel 718 alloy components for the Johnson Space Centre. That tough material is able to withstand extreme heat and corrosive environments, without losing its rigidity or becoming brittle. "The project provided amazing collaboration between the NASA and MTI development teams and the results were excellent," said Gary Cosmer, Chief Executive Officer for MTI.

The 3D printed alloy components will be able to withstand temperatures well above the point of the material, thanks to its engineered cooling. 3D printing techniques allow recirculating gases to be channeled through the printed part via channels build into each layer the component. This clever permeation system would be impossible to replicate with traditional metal manufacturing techniques, which require the molten substance to be poured into a cast.

The NASA collaboration is not MTI’s first venture into space: the company previously produced forgings for the Orion capsule, which will travel upon NASA's Space Launch System. Keep reading 3Ders for further stories about 3D printing firms aiming for the stars.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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