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Engineering Materials

Lockheed & RedEye Team to 3D-Print Rocket Fuel Tanks

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Really impressed
Ann R. Thryft   6/19/2014 12:34:57 PM
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I sure wouldn't want to be that pilot, Mr. Wirtel.
As a reminder, the $250K and 6 months figures were estimates of how long it would take to make multiple functioning prototypes via traditional machining. These two 3D-printed versions cost about half that much--so around $125K--and took less time.



Cabe Atwell
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Re: Really impressed
Cabe Atwell   6/18/2014 11:12:55 PM
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I agree you ttemple, I think the tanks are part of a feasibility study on if they could be manufactured that way. 

Mr. Wirtel
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Re: Really impressed
Mr. Wirtel   6/18/2014 8:30:32 PM
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@Ann: Not to mention the fact that someone will have to pilot that craft and I find it hard to believe anyone could convince a crew that something printed and glued together is perfectly safe for space travel.

Mr. Wirtel
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Re: Really impressed
Mr. Wirtel   6/18/2014 8:26:41 PM
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@Dave: The first number that jumped out at me was the $250,000 for nonfunctioning prototypes. That certainly sounds like entirely too much. Then again it is government work and no need to turn a profit or justify expenses.

bobjengr
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LOOKHEED & REDEYE
bobjengr   6/13/2014 5:35:26 PM
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This is definitely the purpose "additive" manufacturing is finding new uses every month if not every week.  Some years ago I worked for a company that designed and sold ASME Section IV Boilers.  The most critical design was the end caps and insertion of those end caps into the body of the vessel.  I'm not surprised the fabrication took 150 hours.  Think of the tooling dollars saved due to the process.  I also would love to know the adhesive used for the prototypes and if any pressure testing was conducted.  For the ASME vessels, the working pressure was 150 PSI with a test pressure of 300 PSI.  I'm sure that is not the case here.  Great post Ann.  These just shows how the technology is improving and progressing each year.  This is a great "marriage" also and one I'm sure will be lasting. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Really impressed
Ann R. Thryft   6/4/2014 12:07:23 PM
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Liz, considering that such tanks have already been made with composites, and that aerospace is one of the leading sectors pushing production parts in 3D printing, it's quite possible these will be produced by 3D printing in the future.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Really impressed
Elizabeth M   6/4/2014 5:55:20 AM
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You are probably right, Ann, to have your doubts. And until all those doubts are eased, and the production becomes foolproof, it's best to leave this type of thing to prototypes and models, especially when hazardous substances are involved. But with the advancements in metal 3D printing that seem to be increasing, perhaps eventually this will change.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Really impressed
Cabe Atwell   6/3/2014 7:50:35 PM
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I agree you ttemple, I think the tanks are part of a feasibility study on if they could be manufactured that way. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Really impressed
Ann R. Thryft   6/3/2014 1:23:21 PM
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Liz, I also wondered, like Lou, if that isn't possible. Although we have seen huge composite rocket fuel tanks, which we wrote about here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=272890
the non-metallic materials that are 3D printable aren't likely to be up to the job, and I'm doubtful about bonding methods. I'm also not at all sure if either metallic materials or assembly methods for 3D printed parts are, either.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Really impressed
Ann R. Thryft   6/3/2014 1:12:25 PM
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Lou, I wondered the same thing for the same reasons, but there wasn't any mention of that possibility. Lockheed is still a ways away from final design, though, so they may yet make such an announcement.



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