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Engineering Materials
NASA 3D Prints Rocket Engine Parts
11/21/2012

NASA is using 3D printing to build engine parts for its next-generation Space Launch System. Shown here is the first test piece produced on the M2 Cusing Machine at the Marshall Space Flight Center. (Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Andy Hardin)
NASA is using 3D printing to build engine parts for its next-generation Space Launch System. Shown here is the first test piece produced on the M2 Cusing Machine at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
(Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Andy Hardin)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: New process - Old design
Ann R. Thryft   1/24/2013 4:55:55 PM
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EdV, from what I've seen in metal-to-plastics conversions in other assembly technologies, I'd agree with that statement.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: New process - Old design
Ann R. Thryft   1/4/2013 3:10:07 PM
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Thanks, ruffel, glad you liked the article. That's a good question. NASA didn't say what kind, if any, post-sintering processes they're using. They probably haven't figured that out yet, since this is still in the prototype stage.

ruffel
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Re: New process - Old design
ruffel   12/27/2012 3:42:31 AM
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are these componets used right out of the printer (except the obvious) or do they go through post scintering processes like hot isostatic pressing HIP to improve the density and grain strcture. thanks for a awsome publication 

EdV
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Re: New process - Old design
EdV   12/10/2012 4:45:10 PM
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@ChasChas - good question. My guess is that the old design would be printed first so they get an apples-to-apples comparison for their evaluation of the basic mechanical properties.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting new process
Ann R. Thryft   12/3/2012 3:03:28 PM
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Robespierre, thanks for your comments on nomenclature. As I posted in the comments section of a different article http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=251754 the term "3D printing" is now used, confusingly, to refer to all types of additive manufacturing. One of the reasons for this is no doubt the fact that the term "3D printing" gets a lot more attention than the term additive manufacturing, probably because it's immediately easier to visualize what's meant, at least by those not familiar with AM. It's also true that much of the actual 3D printing done in the beginning of that version of AM used (and uses) inkjet technology, very similar to the printers that sit on our desks, so it's a valid term for that sector of AM. I'm not sure what you mean by "these types of parts have been manufactured via additive manufacturing for years." NASA using AM to make rocket engine parts is pretty darn revolutionary.

Robespierre
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Re: Steps to the future
Robespierre   11/28/2012 3:20:31 PM
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Jack, Objet Geometries sells multi material 3D printers.  Arcam (Sweden) sells metal part producing systems using an electron beam. 

Robespierre
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Re: Steps to the future
Robespierre   11/28/2012 3:17:43 PM
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Excellent post!  The porous areas intentionally left in the titanium parts are called "net structures".  It won't be long before a larger % of all implants are produced in the metal part printers. 

Robespierre
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Re: Interesting new process
Robespierre   11/28/2012 3:13:10 PM
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Cabe, the term "3D Printing" only confuses people, doesn't explain the various technologies and is a very weak term to encapsulate an entire industry.  Supposedly, the term "3D Printing" was supposed to replace the term "Rapid Prototyping" and does a weak job at it because people assume the machinery are printers, such as some cheap thing sitting on a desk.  The more powerful term is "Additive Manufacturing" and encapsulates the host of part producing technolgies with strength.  Some Additive Manufacturing technologies produce plastic parts i.e. made in Nylon; ABS; Acrylic, etc. and some of these parts are perfectly fine for use as a Rapid Manufactured functional part and are present on space aircraft to this day.  Within the Additive Manufacturing industry exist systems that produce parts in metal, layer by layer, and the parts go directly into the human body, or into jet engines.  Turbine blades for commercial aircraft are made directly in a select couple of additive manufacturing technologies, with the welds being stronger than the titanium itself.  Some parts require the HIP (Hot Isostatic Process) prior to final stamp of approval, but nonetheless, they are functional parts ready for installation. The article here is factual, with the only exception that these types of parts have been manufactured via additive manufacturing for years.  It is not new news within the industry but is now coming out as giant leaps in the additive manufacturing metals process has now become better, cheaper and faster.   

garyhlucas
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Re: Steps to the future
garyhlucas   11/27/2012 8:37:51 PM
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You probably aren't aware that 3D printing of titanium hip replacements have already captured a large percentage 30%? of the market already. They leave the structure somewhat porous so that the bone can actually grow into it.  CT scans are used to create the 3D model used to make the part specifically for your joints. What a great use of this process!

Charles Murray
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Re: NASA prints rocket engine parts
Charles Murray   11/27/2012 6:56:18 PM
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You raise a number of good points, William K. I, too, was impressed by the fact that NASA would consider this process for a functional part. This could be a sign that 3D printing is finding its niche in low-production-volume parts.

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