Jan 13, 2017 | By Julia

With the burgeoning field of 3D printing aviation technology on the rise, engineers and manufacturers are increasingly turning to additive manufacturing for the construction of rocket models, components, and even engines. Due to the complex nature of rocket engineering, however, many efforts continue to supplement 3D printing with more traditional manufacturing methods.

But that could all be about to change. Students at Inholland University of Applied Science in the Netherlands have begun building an entirely 3D printed, fly-ready rocket, heralding a promising future in 3D printing education.

“We’re an applied sciences university, so everything we teach we try to apply in practice as well,” says Martin Kampinga, an aviation technology teacher at the school. “Students primarily learn about strength calculations, aerodynamics, everything that has something to do with airplanes,” he explains.

teacher Martin Kampinga (L) with two students

Over the course of the curriculum, students have gradually worked their way up in skill and complexity. Using the University’s Ultimaker 3D printers, Inholland students began by successfully designing, constructing, launching, and landing two 8 foot-tall rockets consisting of composite carbon fiber parts and 3D printed components.

They’re now ready for their next challenge: a fully 3D printed rocket. The assignment will involve rethinking the design approach from the ground up. Students are required to conceptualize what the final model will look like already from the onset of the design process. That means asking questions such as, “‘How does that 3D printer work?’ ‘How does it build layers?’ Then [incorporating] this in your basic design concept and designing the parts,” a student explains.

Additive manufacturing is central to this process, often replacing technology that’s dominated aviation classrooms for decades. As one of Kampinga's student explained, 3D printing offers a number of advantages, including rapidly designing, printing, and testing parts. “Machining parts takes a lot of time and money, and 3D printing makes this faster and cheaper,” the student said. “The object in your 3D modelling software can quickly be realized. That makes it possible to see almost directly if it works and whether it meets the standards.”

Kampinga strongly believes that every university should feature 3D printing in its curriculum. From a teaching perspective, the sooner the better. “Students that are graduating 4 years from now will see that technologies have changed in the course of their studies,” Kampinga says. “Educational institutions should provide students with the latest knowledge and developments and show them that alternative production methods like 3D printing exist.”

Fortunately, the Inholland University of Applied Science has turned its 3D printed rocket designs into an extensive lesson plan that any university can pick up and follow. Downloadable 3D files for each of the rocket's parts can also be found here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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