Apr 27, 2017 | By Benedict

The MIT Rocket Team, an independent student group focused on rocket-related projects, has successfully tested a fully 3D printed rocket motor. The motor was 3D printed in nylon using a Markforged Mark Two 3D printer before being tested twice on April 21.

When you imagine experts at the world’s top universities building rockets, you probably picture high-end technology, precise calculations, and rugged materials. What you probably don’t expect to see, what with all the fire and combustion, is plastic.

But plastic is exactly what MIT’s Rocket Team has used to build its latest rocket motor. Using a Markforged Mark Two 3D printer, the engineers were able to design and print the unique rocket part, before testing it (twice) last week.

“We think this is the first time anyone has [fired a rocket motor printed from plastic],” wrote MIT’s Charlie Garcia, explaining how the team spent “two weeks working with our generous supporters at Markforged to design and print the pieces necessary to pull off this historic accomplishment.”

According to the MIT researchers, opting to use nylon was less a choice, more a necessity due to financial constraints. Nonetheless, the team proved that firing a plastic 3D printed motor is feasible, potentially paving the way for others to attempt similar launches.

“Printing rocket motors from plastic is a unique accomplishment,” Garcia explains. “Several groups, including SpaceX and NASA, print rocket engines from metal. But metal printers are expensive, costing north of six figures.

“Our plastic motor is produced on an innovative, lower-cost plastic printer, which has a price accessible to hobbyists and small teams. We also designed our case to work with modern composite propellants.”

On April 21, the MIT Rocket Team readied its 3D printed rocket motor for testing. A first firing “worked well,” with the team using a less energetic propellant. On this test, the rocket motor achieved supersonic flow and produced thrust, with the case surviving the test in good shape.

Since the motor survived the first test mostly unscathed—a few millimeters of plastic eroded from the throat—the team decided to try firing it again, even though it had only been designed for single use.

This time, using a more energetic propellant, the slightly worn throat of the motor quickly eroded and became too large to maintain supersonic flow. “The rocket’s combustion became unstable, the flow through the nozzle was subsonic, and little thrust was produced,” Garcia reports.

After witnessing the results of the second tests, the team vowed to vary the propellant regression rate to match nozzle erosion in future designs.

“The team has already begun follow up work to explore larger motors, more resilient motors, and potentially even flight hardware,” Garcia says.

See the 3D printed rocket component in action in the video below.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

Maybe you also like:


   


Eric Kitchen wrote at 5/3/2017 2:11:52 AM:

I built my own solid motor using a PVC pipe and some insulating material. There were no burn throughs and the thrust curve was quite nice. We made our own propellant as well. Plastic motors work quite well actually and have been used for years by some people. Here is a video of the static firing test for the one I built. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjjk3wsl-3o

Eric Kitchen wrote at 5/3/2017 1:55:43 AM:

I built my own solid motor using a PVC pipe and some insulating material. There were no burn throughs and the thrust curve was quite nice. We made our own propellant as well. Plastic motors work quite well actually and have been used for years by some people. Here is a video of the static firing test for the one I built. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjjk3wsl-3o

MarcC wrote at 4/29/2017 12:03:47 PM:

Fantastic but not so fantastic if you consider paper has done the same job for hundreds of years.

A Graves wrote at 4/28/2017 10:13:55 PM:

CRP did this a few years ago with their Windform product - a composite polyamide based material that is carbon filled. http://www.crp-usa.net/development-testing-additive-manufactured-propulsion-system-amps/



Leave a comment:

Your Name:

 


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now six years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive