May 30, 2017 | By Tess

The European Space Agency (ESA) has partnered with the UK-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to establish a “one-stop” additive manufacturing center for space-related applications. The new center, called the ESA Additive Manufacturing Benchmarking Centre (AMBC), will be managed by MTC and will enable ESA and other space exploration companies to explore the potential of 3D printing for certain projects.

Based in Coventry, England, and home to the UK National Centre for Additive Manufacturing, the MTC will offer its guidance and expertise in 3D printing and will provide ESA with state-of-the-art 3D printing equipment. The new AMBC will be primarily used to prototype and assess parts for space-related applications.

As we’ve seen in recent years, the European Space Agency has taken big steps towards advancing its adoption of 3D printing technologies. The collaboration with the MTC has been initiated in order to maximize and optimize this adoption.

“The ESA’s Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality has called for the creation of a detailed roadmap for the harnessing of 3D printing to the space sector,” said Torben Henriksen, Head of the ESA’s Mechanical Department. “We’ve been guided to set up this center, with customers and industrial partners questioning us about the best way to try out 3D printing for the first time and test out the maturity of the results.”

Rather than compete with the 3D printing industry by setting up its own 3D printing research center, ESA opted to collaborate with MTC. “The idea is that ESA projects and interested companies can investigate this new engineering world to the point where they will take a decision to proceed further,” explained Tommaso Ghidini, head of ESA’s Materials and Processes Section.

From its perspective, the MTC believes that it can offer the space exploration industry the guidance it needs to further adopt and explore 3D printing technologies. The first project on the AMBC’s agenda? Europe’s Vega small launcher.

“By evolving Vega over time, we aim to hone its competitiveness, increase its flexibility and reduce recurring costs,” said Giorgio Tumino, who oversees the Vega’s development programme for ESA. “We’re cooperating with AMBC to investigate the use of 3D printing for rocket engine thrust chambers for Vega’s upper stage, potentially allowing for a significant simplification in production and reduced costs.”

The AMBC will reportedly be 3D printing small-scale copper-based thrust chambers for the Vega small launcher as a demonstration. If the initial demo goes well, the AMBC will then proceed to print a full-scale model of the thrust chamber for qualification tests.

Vega Launcher

In general, the AMBC will be equipped with a wide range of additive manufacturing machines, materials, and post-processing systems, which will allow for a broad range of parts to be prototyped and tested for various applications. The range of AM technologies will also provide the ESA with the means to determine which 3D printing material and process is most suited for a given part.

All of the AMBC’s test results for 3D printed parts will be published in a Europe-wide newsletter, which the center hopes will help to disseminate its research and projects across the continent and to “consolidate European leadership in 3D printing.”



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

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

News Archive