July 21, 2014

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) says that it plans to use 3D printers in rocket development. The company announced its plan at a press briefing last Thursday that it is considering using metal 3D printer to manufacture rocket parts.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch a new large-scale test rocket in fiscal 2020, and as JAXA's partner, Mitsubishi Heavy has been licensed to develop the rocket and provide the transportation service. In order to reduce the cost of launching rocket, Mitsubishi is looking at the possibilities of using metal 3D printing in its development.

Meanwhile Mitsubishi is part of a new research and development initiative, supported by Japanese government, to promote the research and development of 3D metal printers. Their goal is to have prototype machines capable of printing high grade metal parts by 2015.

Last year NASA finished hot fire testing a rocket engine injector made through additive manufacturing. The technology may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, says NASA. In the past 3D printing has been used to craft certain rocket parts, but now this technology is employed to build more critical components. The 3D printing process has the potential to reduce the time and cost associated with making complex parts.

However, chief engineer of Mitsubishi's Defense and Aerospace Business unit said that rockets have special material requirement because of the extreme conditions under which they operate, but the existing 3D metal printers have difficulties to work with these materials. He added that they must now focus on the basic research of the technology.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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