Apr 10, 2018 | By David

Global aerospace leader Orbital ATK has recently carried out a successful test on a new warhead for hypersonic weapons, and the warhead was made primarily using 3D printing technology. For the first time ever, Orbital ATK produced three out of the five major components using additive manufacturing techniques, cutting down on waste and production times. Back in 2016, Orbital ATK first tested a 3D printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The combustor was produced through an additive manufacturing process known as powder bed fusion (PBF). This latest warhead follows through on the potential of that first test.

(source: Orbital ATK)

Hypersonic weapons are weapons that are capable of reaching Mach 5, which is five times faster than the speed of sound. They are part of a new arms race between the U.S., China, and Russia. The U.S. Advanced Hypersonic Weapon traveled about 4,000 kilometers in a test, while China has only tested boost-glide weapons at a range of 2,000 kilometers. Russia and China are both using nuclear warheads on their hypersonic weapons, which gives a wider range of effectiveness. The U.S., however, wants to be able to hit targets with pinpoint accuracy within a few meters.

Orbital ATK has been developing its Lethality Enhanced Ordnance (LEO) warhead capability, along with some modeling techniques to help look at fragmentation design on certain target sets. LEO relies on inert projectiles placed inside the warhead, instead of submunitions. In tests, the Orbital ATK warheads with LEO technology achieved the Army’s stated requirements for area effectiveness, but left behind no unexploded ordnance.

(source: Sputnik International)

Pat Nolan, vice president and general manager of Orbital ATK’s missile products division, told Defense News: “We’re coupling our rocket motor hypersonic experience with our warhead design experience to design a warhead that can survive at high speeds, high temperatures, when you’re going that fast.”

This latest warhead was built primarily using 3D printing technology, and this drastically cut down production times. Additive techniques reduced the total time by about a month and half, meaning that the whole weapon went from conception to testing in just 60 days.

“Additive manufacturing allows us to make complicated geometries, which would benefit a hypersonics application, without the nasty, long schedule,” said Richard Truitt, Orbital ATK’s program manager for warhead development programs.

The 3D printing process also cuts down on waste, as previous manufacturing methods required a warhead to be cut out of a solid block of steel or aluminium, most of which is discarded after completion.

(source: Defense News)

The warhead test was carried out in a warehouse located in the Texas desert. In a standard test arena, the warhead is suspended from above and metal panels surround it in a semi-circle. The panels are there in order to measure how the fragmentation from the warhead disperses upon its detonation. High-speed cameras are rigged around, so that the velocity of the fragmentation can be measured. Another two panels consisting of layers of material, in this case housing insulation material, were placed in the arena. These are designed to capture shrapnel so that the pieces themselves can be measured, as well as the depth of their perforation.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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