An American rocket manufacturer has successfully used 3D printing to build one of the main components of a rocket — the engine injector.
American rocket company Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and fabricated the 3D printed engine injector while NASA’s Glenn Research Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base in California helped it test the component.
Aerojet Rocketdyne made the engine injector using selective laser melting manufacturing technology, which uses high-powered laser beams to melt and merge metallic powders into 3D structures.
NASA and the Air Force lab then helped Aerojet Rocketdyne test the 3D printed engine injector through hot fire testing of a liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly.
[Image Source: NASA Glenn Research Center]
To manufacture this component with traditional systems would take over a year. However, using 3D printing reduces this time frame to only four months.
It also cuts the cost of production by 70 percent.
“NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington. “3-D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.”
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