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Engineering Materials

3D-Printed Rocket Engine Fires Up

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jimfackert
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Iron
3d printed rocket motors- spacex already did it.
jimfackert   7/22/2014 5:57:22 PM
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spacex's landing rocket motors on their Dragon Capsule update are 3d printed. I beleive they have been in test for a while.


Landing like God and Robert Heinlein intended a rocket to land... on a pillar of fire!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cheaper, faster, and an idea to make it even cheaper.
Ann R. Thryft   7/18/2014 12:23:16 PM
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William, check out Sigma Labs, which is doing what I think you're suggesting, or at least their version of it: in-process inspection of 3D printing. We wrote about them last year:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=264282

William K.
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Re: Cheaper, faster, and an idea to make it even cheaper.
William K.   7/17/2014 8:16:14 PM
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Ann, the issue of few NDT methods for verification is not the primary driver, but it is certainly a real challenge. Checking and gaging real-time in the process is a whole lot like closing any other system with a feedback loop, but in this case there could also be verification that it was done right. I hope that others have been evaluating this mode of operation, but possibly not. At least not for this particular application. My goal in posting was to help the industry become better and more efficient. Resources not wasted are available for other things.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cheaper, faster, and an idea to make it even cheaper.
Ann R. Thryft   7/17/2014 8:09:03 PM
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William, you might have a place on some of those 3D printing/additive manufacturing research projects the industry is conducting under the American Makes program (formerly NAMII). Some of them are aimed at creating procedures and best practices/specifications/qualification for evaluating and testing various AM processes. Interesting issue you raise about post-manufacturing testing--I believe you're referring to the lack of NDT methods for 3D printed objects, right?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D-PRINTED ROCKET ENGINES
Ann R. Thryft   7/17/2014 8:03:11 PM
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bobjengr, isn't this incredible? As always, thanks for sharing your aerospace experience, in this case back at Aerojet before the merger with Rocketdyne.
And, um, thanks for the offer, but not sure what I would do what with a turbine wheel...



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cheaper and faster
Ann R. Thryft   7/17/2014 7:59:12 PM
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Clinton, thanks for the comment and good point about this being, in effect, a field test by NASA et al. After awhile, many of the raining on the parade comments sound a lot alike and seem to consist of a strong resistance to facts. Which, of course, is why I keep finding and writing about those facts. I made sure to mention 6,000 F and and 20,000 lb of thrust for all our skeptics.



William K.
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Cheaper, faster, and an idea to make it even cheaper.
William K.   7/16/2014 9:09:44 PM
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This is indeed a very impressive achievement that offers another view of where AM can be going and what it can do. But doing the inspection after the structure is completed is more expensive. What about using a machine vision system to examine the part as it is being fabricated. Recording the dimensions every few layers could be an easy and simpole way to verify that the part was being made correctly, and it would not add to the production labor, only the time. But it should still be faster than doing the checking after the item is completed. 

In fact, it ought to be possible to track the fabrication process in near real-time, and possibly correct any faults before they result in an out-of-spec part. I anticipate that could improve the economy of the process a bit.

If this becomes the "next big wave", just remember who suggested it.

bobjengr
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Platinum
3D-PRINTED ROCKET ENGINES
bobjengr   7/16/2014 6:10:43 PM
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Ann, this is phenomenal.   65% cost reduction and only 40 hours to manufacture is a minor miracle.  I remember the machining time for one turbine wheel was about twice the time mentioned in your article.   During my Air Force years I worked with Aerojet General as the  prime contractor for  turbopumps on the Titan II missle.  I remember the rotors and blades were made from Waspaloy and Hastelloy respectively.  Waspaloy has an operating temperature of 1800 degrees F while Hastelloy is 700 degrees F. The low temps were significant problems and certainly made reuse during testing virtually impossible.  To reach a 6,000 degree F temperature with any material is quite remarkable AND to do it with 3D printing is a real breakthrough.  Great post. Thank you for keeping us up to date.  (By the way--I have a turbine wheel with blades in my basement if you ever need one.  It's 1965 vintage but it's there. ) 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Fires Up
Ann R. Thryft   7/16/2014 12:13:11 PM
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It's worth remembering that NASA's full-sized 3D printed rocket engine injector endured far more pressure (20,000 lb thrust) than this scale model of an entire engine (5000 lb thrust) and it did so repeatedly, without any degradation, at the same temperatures in a full-sized engine. I'd say that bodes well for future NASA rocket engines.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cheaper and faster
Ann R. Thryft   7/16/2014 12:06:28 PM
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fm, your reasons for being impressed at a 3D printed rocket engine are the same ones that made me want to write about it: the incredible force and stresses it has to endure and still function correctly. Clearly, sintering produces somewhat different mechanical characteristics from welding.

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