NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne have completed hot-fire tests on a rocket injector assembly made with a selective laser melting 3D printing process and powdered metals. (Source: NASA Glenn Research Center)
Nice to know that Pratt & Whitney is working with the University of Connecticut on additive manufacturing. As we've said in previous stories and comments, universities need to be on top of this trend because it's happening so fast. That way, our next generation of engineers will be ready for it.
The ability to fabricate parts in space would certainly take the drama out of an Apollo-13 type repair scenario. Instead of scrounging pieces and duct-taping them together, you could make a whole new part, or even a totally redesigned part to deal with the situation.
TJ, your sci-fi movie scenario sounds just like what NASA envisions--feed everything into it and out comes the perfect replacement part. I'd like to see multi-material (metals + plastic) 3D printers, too. Those may not be so far away, since the architectural types use a wide variety of materials already.
Mydesign, thanks for your enthusiasm. There's a lot going on with 3D printing of metals, more than most people know, since these companies have been very quiet compared to the hobbyist end machines that use plastics.
These new 3D-printing technologies and printers include some that are truly boundary-breaking: a sophisticated new sub-$10,000, 10-plus materials bioprinter, the first industrial-strength silicone 3D-printing service, and a clever twist on 3D printing and thermoforming for making high-quality realistic models.
Using simulation to guide the drafting process can speed up the design and production of 3D-printed nanostructures, reduce errors, and even make it possible to scale up the structures. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a model that does this.
Engineers need workhorse materials with beefy mechanical properties for industrial designs made with 3D printing. Very few have been designed from the ground up for additive manufacturing, but that picture is beginning to change.
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