Russia Successfully Tests 3D Printed Engine

Russia continues to venture into additive manufacturing for critical applications, just releasing the successful results of a flight test for their 3D printed MGTD-20 Gas Turbine Engine. The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the defense Industry relayed this new information to Russian state-controlled news agency, Sputnik:

“Russia has for the first time conducted flight tests of the MGTD-20 gas turbine engine made by 3D-printing,” the statement said.

Testing (resulting in a successful landing) was held at the Kazanbash aviation center in Tatarstan, about 500 miles east of Moscow—following successful evaluation also of gas turbine engines 3D printed last year. The device passed altitudes of 170 meters during testing, with a maximum ground speed of 154 kilometers per hour. According to the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, engine speed was noted at 101,600 rpm, while was working speed was 58,000 rpm.

Exemplifying the benefits of 3D printing, the Russian engineers have reported that they were able to decrease production time exponentially; in fact, they are now not only manufacturing the components for aircraft 20 times faster, but they have also been able to cut the cost factor significantly.

These improvements fall in line with many of the advantages of using what most may consider to be a new and progressive technology; however, organizations like NASA have known about—and have been employing 3D printing—for several decades. While the technology was originally used by engineers for rapid prototyping of parts then produced via conventional manufacturing, more commonly now high-performance, strong, lightweight, and functional components are being 3D printed.

This is true for numerous other critical applications to include medical, aerospace, automotive, and construction. In some cases, strides already made within 3D printing have transformed industries like medicine and aerospace, while yet others like construction are still slowly evolving with some promises from developers continuing to be proven overinflated.

Manufacturing of the aircraft is expected in 2021-2022. The engines are 3D printed with heat-resistant aluminum alloys meant for serious industrial use, offering a 22-kilogram-force thrust. The project was developed in coordination with the Fund for Advanced Research and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “VIAM” State Scientific Center of the Russian Federation with the participation of JSC NPO OKB im. M.P. Simonov.

The Russians have certainly not been devoid of headlines regarding 3D printing, including their latest news at the International Space Station as Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko bioprinted cartilage to advance regenerative medicine in space while in zero gravity conditions. In other projects, Russian researchers have experimented with 3D printing titanium for medical implants, and have also ventured into the area of construction of homes that can be manufactured onsite, and quickly so.

In the US, 3D printing for rocket engines has continued, with dynamic projects continue to evolve via NASA—from new methods to fabricate complex rocket engine nozzles to collaborating with businesses like Aerojet Rocketdyne for production of RS-25 engine rockets, while other companies like Launcher and AMCM have been behind the successful production of a large single-part 3D printed rocket.

[Sources: Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects; Affairs Cloud; Big News Network / Image: Big News Network]

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6K Partners with Relativity Space, Commissions UniMelt to Transform Sustainability in Metal 3D Printing

On the heels of their recent announcement of commissioning the first two commercial UniMelt systems for sustainable production of additive manufacturing (AM) powders, 6K has now partnered with Relativity Space to explore sustainability in AM production for rocket manufacturing and space travel.

Relativity’s Terran 1 – rocket parts will be built in a reportedly sustainable manner using 6K’s proprietary technology, image courtesy of Relativity Space.

The partnership with Relativity Space expands on the sustainability focus in metal AM, reimagining the aerospace supply chain. Relativity will look to provide 6K with certified scrap materials, used powder or parts, which can be recycled into premium powder that will then be reprinted by Relativity for final production parts suitable for rocket launch and space travel applications. The pioneering aerospace manufacturer is not only creating an autonomous factory to additively manufacture an entire rocket, from raw material to launch-ready, in just 60 days, but is also looking to do it by reusing materials. 6K will bring sustainability to Relativity’s unique supply chain, and ensure closed loop traceability in production.

Commenting on the landmark partnership, Dr.Aaron Bent, CEO of 6K, said:

“Relativity is pushing the boundaries of additive manufacturing by 3D printing a complete rocket and we see this partnership as a natural extension of their forward thinking practice. Our ability to turn their used powder and parts into premium powder through the UniMelt process provides them with a sustainable source for AM powder. We are proud to be partnering with Relativity to explore ways to increase sustainability, recycling and environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, which the entire AM industry is uniquely posed to be able to integrate into standard practices.”

Relativity is continuing to build key partnerships as it prepares to launch the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1, in 2021, and recently signed a public-private infrastructure partnership with the US Airforce to use the latter’s launch site facility in Southern California.

Customers from key industries of automotive, manufacturing, aerospace and more, are increasingly looking to improve their supply chain efficiencies and shift towards more sustainable production. In shifting towards ‘green’ manufacturing, AM material suppliers are looking for ways to use domestic, reusable sources for AM powder production. While AM itself is often seen as a sustainable manufacturing method, the production of AM powders hasn’t been near sustainable, generating large amounts of waste to produce a small quantity of much-needed premium quality AM powders.

6K, a developer and supplier of advanced materials, is transforming the production of AM powders with its UniMelt system, which is the world’s only microwave plasma system for production. The system, which produces three to four times the yield of gas atomization, not only allows 6K to create highly uniform powders with the requisite properties, but also to tailor the powder to the specific AM process it will be used for.

Outlining the range of materials the system can produce, 6K stated that UniMelt is capable of producing:

“a highly uniform and precise plasma zone with zero contamination, and capable of high throughput production of advanced materials including Onyx In718 and Onyx Ti64 AM powders. 6K’s UniMelt technology can also spheroidize ferrous alloys like SS17-4PH, SS316, other nickel superalloys including Inconel 625, HX, cobalt-base alloys like CoCr, refractory metals like Mo, W, Re, reactive alloys such as Ti-6-4, TiAl, Al alloys as well as high-temperature ceramics such as MY and YSZ.”

6K’s proprietary UniMelt system that produces premium metal AM powders at 100% yield, image courtesy 6K

The company recently commissioned two commercial UniMelt production lines at its 40,000 square foot plant in Pennsylvania, USA, with each to produce 100 tones per year of nickel super alloys and titanium powders. This could represent a significant milestone in AM sustainability, in both its processes and applications for existing and new metal powders.

At Formnext 2019, 6K launched its Onyx In718 and Onyx Ti64 materials which, after internal product qualification and 3rd party printing, will begin customer sampling in the latter half of this year. Additional UniMelt systems will be commissioned throughout 2021 to meet anticipated demand for premium metal AM powders. The company is also looking to certify its plant as a sustainable manufacturing factory, as a recent member of MESA’s association for sustainable manufacturing.

“The commissioning of the first commercial UniMelt systems is the culmination of terrific work by experts in manufacturing, process and materials at both 6K Additive and our parent company 6K,” said Frank Roberts, President of 6K Additive. “Customers and strategic partners have been eager to sample and use our Onyx powders and we’re ready to deliver. Accompanying the new UniMelt systems, the new facility encompasses automated manufacturing equipment and industry leading safety and health systems that confirm our organization is hitting our production goals while ensuring the utmost in safety for our employees.”

UniMelt’s high frequency microwave plasma, image courtesy 6K

Through 6K Additive, its division focused on AM material solutions, the company aims at the production of ultra-high quality metal powders, at scale, at low cost with more than nine times the efficiency of existing plasma processes, the company claims. 6K (which stands for 6000K, the approximate temperature of the UniMelt plasma system and the temperature of the Sun) also enables the development of alloy powders with unusual properties, combining different types of metals that could not be mixed before, and producing previously thought “impossible” materials for 3D printing production. ‘Unobtainium’, is an alloy made by 6K which was previously considered impossible to obtain or produce, that combines six different metals including copper, iron, nickel, titanium among others.

This is because 6K’s microwave plasma process is the only process that can achieve the combination of high entropy metals, enabling the production of rare, unexpected alloy powders for metal AM. What’s most interesting though is that 6K’s microwave plasma platform converts certified chemistry machine millings, turnings, previously used powders, discarded parts, and other recyclable feedstock into high-quality AM powders. This means that any machined alloy could potentially be processed into reusable premium metal AM powder with specific properties.

6K’s unique technology could accelerate the trend towards a circular economy in metal AM, image courtesy 6K

6K may be transforming the business case for powder-bed and sintering applications in critical areas of cost, efficiency, sustainability and capabilities. This could accelerate the shift towards a circular economy in metal AM, despite greater short-term impacts in metal AM markets (as compared to polymer) this year due to COVID-19, and could also strengthen mid to long-term demand for metal AM solutions – perhaps growing the market beyond a projected $11 billion by 2024 (as per SmarTech’s latest AM Metal Powders 2019 report).

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Relativity Secures a New Launch Site in California for 3D-Printed Rockets

A new launch site facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California will be Relativity Space‘s latest adoption to its growing portfolio of infrastructure partnerships. With this new addition, the 3D-printed rocket manufacturer’s launch capabilities will now span both coasts of the United States, as the company already has a lease for a launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Ahead of next year’s inaugural Terran 1 rocket launch, these expanded capabilities, along with the company’s autonomous production via metal 3D printing, help drive Relativity’s momentum and customer base at a time when the space industry is booming and the number of rocket launches increases exponentially. 

To build up its launching capabilities, Relativity signed a Right of Entry Agreement with the 30th Space Wing of the United States Air Force to begin the assessment of the viability of launch operations at the prospective site. The location chosen for Relativity’s new launch complex is the current site of Building 330 (B-330) and the adjacent land, a storage facility located just south of SLC-6, the current west coast launch site for United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket. Moreover, Relativity’s senior leadership team, drawn from both longtime aerospace companies and industry pioneers, has executed dozens of successful launches at Vandenberg.

“We’re honored to begin this partnership with the 30th Space Wing and join the exclusive group of private space companies able to conduct launches at Vandenberg,” said Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity. “The West Coast launch facilities allow Relativity to provide affordable access to polar and sun sync orbits that are critical for both government and commercial customers. The geographic southerly position of B-330 at Vandenberg offers schedule certainty and increased launch frequency that will be advantageous to our Terran 1 customers.”

Home to the 30th Space Wing, which manages the Department of Defense’s space and missile testing as well as satellite launches into polar and Sun Synchronous orbits (SSO) from the West Coast, the Vandenberg launch site would support Terran 1 as well as future Relativity Space capabilities, offering Relativity’s customers a complete range of orbital inclinations adding to LEO, MEO, GEO, and low inclination orbits possible at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 16.

“The 30th Space Wing takes great pride in supporting the next generation of leaders in space. We are impressed by Relativity’s innovative approach to reinventing aerospace manufacturing via 3D metal printing and robotics paired with an executive team of seasoned aerospace leaders. We look forward to working with Relativity as its West Coast launch partner for many years to come,” stated Colonel Anthony J. Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Relativity’s Los Angeles facility (Credit: Relativity Space)

Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, the California-based startup is pushing the limits of additive manufacturing as it attempts to 3D print entire orbital-class rockets. Originally based in Los Angeles, the autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations recently moved its work to a 120,000 square foot site in Long Beach, California, that will house both the company’s business operations and an unprecedented manufacturing facility to create the first aerospace platform that will integrate intelligent robotics, software, and 3D autonomous manufacturing technology to build the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1. 

Up until now we only heard of four customers onboard the Terran 1 manifest, which are Telesat, mu Space, Spaceflight, and Momentus Space. However, Relativity also revealed on Wednesday, via a Twitter post, its fifth launch contract with satellite operator Iridium Communications. According to the company, as many as six Iridium NEXT communication satellites would launch no earlier than 2023 from the new launch site to be constructed at Vandenberg.

Iridium’s CEO, Matt Desch, explained that “Relativity’s Terran 1 fits our launch needs to LEO well from both a price, responsiveness and capability perspective.”

Focused on expanding the possibilities for the human experience by building a future in space faster, and starting with rockets, Relativity has been working to pioneer technology that allows them to reduce the part count 100 times by printing across Terran 1’s structure and engines, also significantly reducing touchpoints and lead times, greatly simplifying the supply chain and increasing overall system reliability.

Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Credit: Relativity Space)

Throughout the last five years, the company has conducted over 300 test firings of its Aeon rocket engines as part of an engine test program conducted at test complex E4 and E2 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen, nine Aeon 1 engines will power Relativity’s first Terran 1 vehicles to LEO. According to NASA Spaceflight, the propellant choice for Aeon 1 is consistent with Relativity’s stated goal of enabling an interplanetary future for humanity, especially since methane and oxygen are expected to be the easiest rocket propellants to produce on Mars. As well as highly automated 3D printing manufacturing methods that can become extremely relevant to future interplanetary space travel.

Relativity is quickly advancing towards launching the first entirely-3D printed rocket to space as it continues to engage in public-private partnerships. In fact, this last agreement represents yet another milestone that the company secured with federal, state, and local governments and agencies across the United States Government. As the first autonomous rocket factory and next-generation space company, Relativity aims to produce an innovatively designed and manufactured rocket, just in time for the upcoming new space race, where startups have the opportunity to be part of an entirely different, unknown, and competitive big new frontier for the private space industry.

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NASA Wants Aerojet Rocketdyne to Make More Rocket Engines with 3D-Printed Parts

On its first launch, NASA‘s uncrewed Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket will go on a trip around the Moon as part of the initial test flight for the Artemis 1 mission. It will mark the beginning of one of the most talked-about space programs this year, Artemis, an ongoing government-funded crewed spaceflight initiative with the goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, particularly, on the lunar south pole region. The most powerful rockets ever built, the SLS is in turn powered by four super engines that are designed to handle some of the most extreme temperatures as they move massive amounts of propellants to generate enough energy for the rocket to escape Earth’s gravity.

As part of a years-long working relationship with NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, will be building a total of 24 RS-25 rocket engines to support as many as six SLS flights for a total contract value of almost $3.5 billion. Originally slated to produce six new RS-25 engines, the company has recently been awarded a $1.79 billion contract modification to build 18 additional RS-25 rocket engines to support future deep space exploration missions.

“This contract allows NASA to work with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build the rocket engines needed for future missions,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The same reliable engines that launched more than 100 space shuttle missions have been modified to be even more powerful to launch the next astronauts who will set foot on the lunar surface during the Artemis missions.”

Although the Space Shuttle Endeavour is now at a museum exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, its engines—along with those that used to power space shuttles Discovery and Atlantis—have been maintained for SLS. However, unlike the shuttles, SLS will not reuse its engines. Once the core stage falls away at around eight minutes after launch, the engines will disintegrate during reentry. There are currently 16 RS-25 engines remaining from NASA’s Space Shuttle Program that Aerojet Rocketdyne has upgraded, tested, and that are ready to support the first four SLS missions. Yet, with more SLS missions expected to launch well into the end of the decade, Aerojet Rocketdyne has been asked to build more engines; actually, six new expendable RS-25 engines are already being assembled using advanced manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing, that reduces both the cost and time for manufacturing each engine.

The additional 18 engines will continue to leverage supply chain optimization and the incorporation of additive manufacturing (AM) techniques that were already introduced in the initial SLS engine production.

Initial SLS Configuration, powered by RS-25 rocket engines (Credits: NASA)

Employing AM technology to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of its engines is among the top priorities of the aerospace and defense company. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s senior engineer on the Additive Manufacturing team, Alan Fung, told that hundreds of people have been working on the design, development, and manufacture of the engines which relies mainly on laser powder bed fusion technology to additively manufacture at least 35 parts on each engine. 

“Our primary focus is to make reliable, robust printed parts, that will work 100 percent of the time. We started designing some of these pieces a couple of years ago to make sure they were tested and certified for NASA’s space program, which is crucial to the safety of the upcoming crewed missions,” said Fung. 

AM Team at Aerojet Rocketdyne, from left to right: Bryan Webb, Ivan Cazares, and Alan Fung (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

With the delivery of these new engines scheduled to begin in 2023, the team is not wasting any time. Fung said that “part of the big quest in the first round was to work with NASA closely on developing the certification processes.” Revealing that “we now have a process to make parts using AM that we know is safe and it is exactly what we need to make sure that our parts will work on the engines that will power future SLS missions.”

3D printing simplifies the production of several RS-25 parts and components, making the engine more affordable to produce while increasing reliability. With fewer part welds, the structural integrity of the engine increases. This is a very manual, complex manufacturing process. In fact, rocket engines are so complicated to build, that only a handful of countries have been able to manufacture them.

“That’s where AM really shined for us. We were able to get rid of many welding joints and just incorporate the processes automatically, getting down the part count and reducing the load across the engine,” said Fung.

One of the largest 3D-printed components of the engine was the critical “Pogo” accumulator assembly. Roughly the size of a beach ball, the complex piece of hardware acts as a shock absorber to reduce oscillations caused by propellants as they flow between the vehicle and the engine. Fung described the 3D-printed component as a critical part of the engine because it helps smooth the ride for astronauts and the vehicle ensuring a safe flight. Moreover, he explained that the Pogo used to demand more than 100 weld joints that had to be done manually and took almost four years to make, while the 3D-printed Pogo developed at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s factory in Los Angeles, brought the welds down to just three, and was finished in less than a year.

Some of these modified components have already been tested during engine tests that replicate the conditions of flight. For example, during a 400-second test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne was able to successfully evaluate the performance of the 3D printed Pogo accumulator assembly.

“We expect that more and more engines will be additively manufactured in the future, leaving behind a lot of traditional rocket engine manufacturing processes that are very difficult, and allowing us to print more engines. Eventually, the time to build is going to go down even more, especially as the industry gears towards incorporating more lasers and bigger machines; which is good for us, because our engines keep getting a little bit bigger than the last ones. So, when those machines get to be bigger, use more lasers, and print parts faster, then that’s when we will see a really big shift in the way we make rocket engines,” went on Fung. 

Artemis I RS-25 Engines (Credits: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

Working with NASA, Aerojet has implemented a plan to reduce the cost of the engines by more than 30% on future production when compared to the versions that flew on the Space Shuttle, all thanks to more advanced manufacturing techniques, like AM, that help the engineers modify some of the rocket components.

During the flight, the four engines will provide the SLS with around two million pounds of thrust to send the heavy-lift rocket to space. The rocket engines are mounted at the base of a 212-foot-tall core stage, which holds more than 700,000 gallons of propellant and provides the flight computers that control the rocket’s flight.

The AM team at Aerojet is using GE Concept Laser and EOS machines for its selective laser melting requirements. Fung said they were using superalloys, mostly nickel-based for the engine parts being 3D printed, due to its outstanding corrosion resistance, high strength, and ability to resist hydrogen embrittlement due to the hydrogen fuels found in most of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s liquid propellant rocket engines.

“These new RS-25 engines are an upgrade from the Space Shuttle engines, which were already some of the most reliable engines made in history. Engineers spent 40 years making the shuttle engines as reliable, safe and high performance as possible; but with additive manufacturing we thought we could also try to get the cost down. This technology will revolutionize the way we build engines” 

With so many challenges ahead, having certified rocket engines to take the next lunar explorers to orbit feels like a stepping stone for the journey that lies ahead. After all, the SLS rocket is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration and will prepare humans for long-duration space travel and the eventual journey to Mars.

Space Launch System (SLS) (Credits: NASA)

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The Countdown to the “Don’t Stop Me Now” Mission Has Begun for Rocket Labs

Space is one of the most attractive frontiers for humans and 2020 has been one of the most exciting years for space exploration. For starters, companies are sending rockets to space, uncrewed rockets that is, at least for now, as they prepare for future missions to the Moon and later on, to Mars. March is not over yet and we have already witnessed 17 successful rocket launches to orbit. And space technology company Rocket Lab is quickening the pace, now planning its second mission set to launch by the end of the month.

Called “Don’t Stop Me Now”, the next mission launch will deploy payloads for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space.

Founded in New Zealand in 2006 by engineer Peter Beck, Rocket Lab is well known for 3D printing lightweight, high-performance rocket engines, like the Rutherford. The payload on the next mission will launch aboard the company’s Electron rocket, Rocket Lab’s twelfth Electron launch since the company began launches in May 2017.

Overall, this mission will enable university research into Earth’s magnetic field, support the testing of new smallsat comms architecture, and demonstrate a fast, commercial approach for getting government small satellites into space, which helps advance scientific and human exploration.

Rocket Lab’s next launch will be the second for the NRO, a major US intelligence agency, the first one was on board the company’s last dedicated mission, “Birds of a Feather”, which was launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket on January 31 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab’s last Electron mission also deployed NRO satellites (Image: Rocket Lab)

Beck said the mission is a great example of the kind of cutting-edge research and fast-paced innovation that small satellites are enabling.

“It’s a privilege to have NASA and the NRO launch on Electron again, and we’re excited to welcome the UNSW onto our manifest for the first time, too,” he went on. “We created Electron to make getting to space easy for all, so it’s gratifying to be meeting the needs of national security payloads and student research projects on the same mission.”

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder (Image: Rocket Lab)

According to the company, the rideshare mission will launch several small satellites, including the ANDESITE (Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) satellite created by electrical and mechanical engineering students and professors at Boston University (BU). The satellite will launch as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and will conduct a groundbreaking scientific study into Earth’s magnetic field.

Once in space, the ANDESITE satellite will initiate measurements of the magnetosphere with onboard sensors, later releasing eight pico satellites carrying small magnetometer sensors to track electric currents flowing in and out of the atmosphere, a phenomenon also known as space weather. These variations in electrical activity racing through space can have a big impact on our lives here on Earth, causing interruptions to things like radio communications and electrical systems.

The ANDESITE satellite follows on from Rocket Lab’s first Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) launch for NASA, the ELaNa-19 mission, which launched a host of educational satellites to orbit on Electron in December 2018, as part of an initiative to attract and retain students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The mission also carries three payloads designed, built and operated by the NRO. The mission was procured under the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle. RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that provide a streamlined, commercial approach for getting small satellites into space, as well as provide those working in the small satellite community with timely and cost-effective access to space.

“We’re excited to be partnering with Rocket Lab on another mission under our RASR contract,” indicated Chad Davis, Director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “This latest mission is a great example of the collaborative nature of the space community and our goal as space partners to procure rideshare missions that not only meet our mission needs but provide opportunities for those working with smallsats to gain easy access to space.”

A statement by the company also suggests that the ANDESITE and NRO payloads will be joined on the mission by the M2 Pathfinder satellite, a collaboration between the UNSW Canberra Space and the Australian Government. The M2 Pathfinder will test communications architecture and other technologies that will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia. The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an onboard software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while in orbit.

The Spacecraft Project Lead at UNSW Canberra and space systems engineer, Andrin Tomaschett, revealed that “we’re very excited to be launching M2 Pathfinder with Rocket Lab who have been so very flexible in accommodating our spacecraft specific needs, let alone the ambitious nine-month project timeframe. The success of this spacecraft will unlock so much more, for our customers and for Australia, by feeding into the complex spacecraft projects and missions our team is currently working on.”

While NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) ELaNa Mission Lead, Scott Higginbotham, considered that through the CubeSat Launch Initiative, NASA engages the next generation of space explorers, providing university teams, like ANDESITE, with real-life, hands-on experience in conducting an actual space research mission in conjunction with NASA.

Named in recognition of Rocket Lab board member and avid rock band Queen fan Scott Smith, who recently passed away, the mission will have a 14-day launch window that opens on March 27, at New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. The best way audiences can view the launch is via Rocket Lab’s live video webcast: a live stream will be made available approximately 15 to 20 minutes prior to the launch attempt. If you are a serial space observer and follow all news relating to 3D printed rockets, launches, commercialization of low Earth orbit, and more, stay up to date with our articles at

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3D Printing News Briefs: April 21, 2019

We’re beginning with an aerospace 3D printing story in 3D Printing News Briefs today, then moving on to news about some upcoming industry events and finishing with a little business. Launcher tested its 3D printed rocket engine on an important date in history. DuPont will be introducing new semi-crystalline 3D printing products at RAPID + TCT, and Nanofabrica has offered to 3D print micro parts at no cost for interested companies attending the annual euspen conference. Ira Green Inc. used Rize technology to transform its production process, GOM is now part of the Zeiss Group, and the Ivaldi Group received its ISO 9001:2015 certification.

Launcher Tests 3D Printed Rocket Engine

New York startup Launcher, which uses EOS technology to create 3D printed components for metal rocket engines, has completed many firing tests with these parts over the last year and a half. Recently, on the anniversary of the date the first human left Earth to go into space, the startup announced the results of the latest test.

Launcher’s founder and CEO Max Haot posted on his LinkedIn account that the E-1 copper bi-metal rocket engine, which was 3D printed on the EOS M290, broke the startup’s combustion pressure record at 625 psi, mr 2.5. It will be interesting to see how the engine performs on its next test.

DuPont to Introduce New Semi-Crystalline Materials 

At next month’s RAPID + TCT in Detroit, DuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers (T&AP), a DowDuPont Specialty Products Division business, will be launching an expansion to its 3D printing portfolio: advanced, high-performance semi-crystalline materials, which will give customers more manufacturing agility and open new opportunities to lower costs while increasing production.

Jennifer L. Thompson, Ph.D., R&D programs manager for DuPont T&AP, will be presenting a technical paper about the materials during the event as part of the Material Development and Characterization session. During her presentation at 10:15 am on May 23rd, Thompson will discuss alternative 3D printing methods, like pellet extrusion modeling, in addition to highlighting new engineering materials and talking about tailored material testing programs. Thompson and other DuPont employees will be at DuPont T&AP’s booth #552 at RAPID to answer questions about the company’s 3D printing materials.

Nanofabrica Offers Free 3D Printing Services for euspen Attendees

Last month, Israeli 3D printing startup Nanofabrica announced the commercial launch of its micro resolution 3D printing platform. In order to show off the system’s abilities to potential customers, Nanofabrica has made an enticing offer to attendees at next month’s euspen conference and exhibition in Spain: the startup will print parts for interested companies at no charge. Then, the parts printed on the new micro AM platform will be presented to them at the event, which focuses on the latest technological developments that are growing innovation at the micron and sub-micron levels.

“It’s quite simple really. We believe that the best way to prove what our AM system can do, how high the resolution and accuracy of the parts we make are, is to manufacture parts for attendees,” Jon Donner, the CEO of Nanofabrica explained. “Registered attendees are welcome to send us their files, and we will examine and print them. That is how confident we are that you will be amazed by the capabilities of our system, and this we feel will mean that we can forge meaningful relationships with manufacturers that will endure into the future.”

Rize 3D Printing Transformed Company’s Production Process

Rhode Island-based IRA Green Inc. (IGI), a full-service manufacturer and distributor of unique uniform items earned and worn by military personnel around the world, recently turned to RIZE and its 3D printing capabilities in order to manufacture small fixtures for its tool shop. The company’s products are in high demand, but lead times were growing longer due to bottlenecks and 8 hours of work for each $300 fixture. Precision is also important for these parts, which is why IGI decided to turn to the RIZE ONE hybrid 3D printer. According to a new case study, IGI’s design team uses the printer every day to manufacture accurate fixtures in just 50 minutes for $2.00 a part. Using the RIZE ONE, which has the unique capability of adding ink markings to parts for verification, the company has been able to standardize its nails and molds, which helped lead to an ROI in less than five months.

IGI’s Manufacturing Manager, Bill Yehle said, “Implementing RIZE 3D printing as part of a strategic process shift has completely transformed our production process.

“We have realized an 80% time savings in setup and changeover alone using RIZE and virtually eliminated errors.”

ZEISS Group Acquires GOM

In an effort to expand its industrial metrology and quality assurance portfolio, the ZEISS Group, a technology enterprise operating in the optics and optoelectronics fields, has acquired GOM, which provides hardware and software for automated 3D coordinate measuring technology. By combining GOM’s optical 3D measuring technology with its own products, ZEISS could expand market access, and create new opportunities, for its Industrial Quality & Research segment. Once the transaction is complete, which should happen soon, GOM will become part of this ZEISS segment, while the legal form of its companies in Germany and elsewhere will stay the same. The financial details of the transaction will not be discussed publicly.

“Our growth strategy expressly mentions the targeted acquisition of highly innovative solutions, technologies and companies, which can reach their full potential as part of the ZEISS Group. By acquiring GOM and thereby expanding our solutions portfolio, we are bolstering the leading position of our Industrial Quality & Research segment and will be able to offer even better solutions for our customers. This is entirely in keeping with our corporate strategy, which is focused on our customers’ success,” said Dr. Michael Kaschke, President & CEO of ZEISS.

Ivaldi Group Awarded ISO 9001:2015 Certification

California startup Ivaldi Group, which uses 3D printing and metal fabrication solutions to provide in-port parts on-demand services for the maritime, mining, offshore, and construction industries has become ISO 9001:2015 certified in less than ten months. This standard, which is certifies quality managements systems that focus on customer satisfaction, continuous improvement, and active involvement of employees and management in a process-based approach, is the first step in the certification process that’s required to certify specific products. This proves Ivaldi’s commitment to constantly improving itself.

“Certifying our quality management system has helped us to structure our processes to create a solid foundation. This will allow us to improve efficiency, productivity, and traceability,” said Anna D’Alessio, Quality Management Specialist of Ivaldi Group. “Global quality management systems are important to align processes and optimize operations across facilities. This certification proves our commitment to meet requirements of stakeholders affected by our work.”

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Rocket Lab and its 3D Printed Rockets Look Toward a Prolific Future

Rocket Lab New Premesis Imagery, Auckland, 11 October 2018. [Image: William Booth /]

Rocket Lab started off 2018 with quite a bang, launching its partially 3D printed Electron rocket from its New Zealand launch site in January. This was the second launch and first successful orbital mission for the rocket, and the company is now gearing up to launch many more rockets – a couple more this year, and then 16 next year. Earlier this month, Rocket Lab opened a second rocket development lab and production facility in Auckland, New Zealand, and this week the company announced the location of its second launch site, which will be in Wallops Island, Virginia. Rocket Lab hopes to have the site operational in about a year.

“For us, the first big step was getting to orbit,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. “We succeeded with that. The next big step is scaling facilities to meet demand. We’re not focusing on the next rocket. We’re focusing on the next 100 rockets.”

Rocket Lab New Premesis Imagery, Auckland, 11 October 2018. [Image: William Booth /]

For the remainder of 2018, however, Rocket Lab is focusing on the next two rockets. Its first full commercial mission, dubbed It’s Business Time, is scheduled to launch in November, and in December a flight for NASA will take off carrying 10 CubeSats.

Rocket Lab will continue to build its 3D printed Rutherford engines, as well as electronic guidance systems, at its main production facility in Southern California. The new Auckland facility will focus on building fuel tanks and rocket cores. Rockets launching from New Zealand will eventually be integrated at facilities there, and rockets launching from Virginia will be integrated there. Rocket Lab won’t be shipping entire Electron boosters across the ocean, but it will be sending components, and the two facilities combined will allow the company to build up to 52 Electron rockets per year, launching once per week.

Rocket Lab plans to invest about $20 million into the new facility at Wallops, which will be located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. According to Beck, the company is looking at additional sites around the world as well.

The Electron rocket has a payload of 150kg to 225kg, and is boostable to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit. Rocket Lab faces stiff competition from a large number of other companies looking to deliver small payloads into outer space, but Beck believes that the company has an advantage from all that it has learned: that things like regulation, production facilities, and launch pads matter just as much if not more than the rocket itself.

“This is the thing,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a couple of hot fires and do a couple of suborbital launches and whatnot. For us, just going to orbit was a good milestone, but going to orbit once is just the start. The amount of effort that we’ve invested the last nine months, really, it’s been just extraordinary.”

Rocket Lab New Premises Imagery, Auckland, 11 October 2018. [Image: William Booth /]

Rocket Lab certainly has mustered a lot of effort, and for that fact alone, it’s likely to stay at the front of the crowd of companies jostling to get their small rockets into space. While determination alone doesn’t guarantee success, determination backed by a great deal of planning and capital is a much better bet, and Rocket Lab has shown itself to be willing and able to put forward plenty of both.
[Source: Ars Technica]


3D Printing News Briefs: August 14, 2018

We’re taking care of business first in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, followed by a story about 3D printed glasses and then moving on into the aerospace sector. 3YOURMIND is sharing a preview of its upcoming virtual AM Summit, and Rize published a new case study. TriPro 3D Technology introduced a new 3D printer, and a doctor at the Beijing Tongren Hospital is hoping to correct patients’ vision with 3D printed glasses. Launcher completed another test for its 3D printed rocket engine, a 3D modeler put a lot of work into creating a 3D printed NASA helmet, and engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center created a 3D printable model of its flying telescope.

3YOURMIND Presenting Virtual AM Summit

German startup 3YOURMIND, which provides industrial 3D printing software solutions, is presenting a free virtual conference called the AM Summit later this month for people who want to learn more about industrial 3D printing. Beginning at 10 am Central European Time on August 28, the AM Summit will feature five speakers from multiple industries, who will be discussing topics like how to make data 3D printable, the future of 3D printing materials, and how to identify great AM business cases.

The AM Summit’s website states, “Learn how to get started with 3D design, identify your first successful business cases, and how to optimize workflows like leading companies around the world do. Participate in the digital conference online from your desk and chat in real time with the audience and the experts”

Rize Presents Customer Case Study

Boston-based 3D printing company Rize just released a new customer case study about New Hudson Facades (NHF), which designs, engineers, manufactures, and installs custom glass and aluminum façades on skyscrapers, that explains how the company adopted 3D printing in its Pennsylvania office, which already contained automated assembly lines, material handling and inspection equipment, and robotic glazing equipment. NHF’s engineering manager Andrew Black was already familiar with 3D printing and thought that the company could increase product quality and production and decrease costs by incorporating the technology into its daily operations. When asking Cimquest, a Rize reseller, for a recommendation, Black specified that the AM solution the company needed had to be safe, fast, easy to learn and use, and able to fabricate strong functional parts, like clamping fixtures and check gauges. Cimquest then suggested the Rize One.

“I put Rize One right next to my desk, so I can use it all the time. It’s so easy, anyone can use it,” Black said.

“We’re finding creative new uses every day for our Rize 3D printer.”

NHF is now enjoying a 15% increase in production speed and $200,000 cost savings per year on fixtures.

TriPro Introduces Industrial 3D Printer

China-based TriPro Technology Co., Ltd. specializes in lasers and CNC machines but has also made the leap to 3D printing. Now, the company is introducing its latest 3D printer, the ProMaker 700, for industrial applications. It’s easy to print with materials like ABS, PLA, PETG, and nylon on the ProMaker 700, which features a 460 x 430 x 740 mm build volume. The 3D printer can maintain a constant temperature of about 60°C, thanks to its full enclosure; this is necessary when working with materials like ABS so they don’t warp at the edges due to rapid cooling. With a 50 micron resolution on X and Y and a 100 micron on Z, the ProMaker 700 is also perfect for batch manufacturing.

“We highly recommend this machine for designing, for manufacturing, prototyping, importance of functional and parts manufacturing,” said Achilles from TriPro.

3D Printed Glasses for Correcting Vision

Dr. Song Hongxin with a pair of 3D printed glasses at Beijing Tongren Hospital. [Image: Beijing News]

At the Beijing Tongren Hospital in China, Dr. Song Hongxin is working to create customized 3D printed glasses with a free-form surface to help people with deformed corneas correct their vision. Free-form surface lenses, which can fit differently shaped corneas, can help with the symptoms of an eye disorder called keratoconus, which can result in symptoms like astigmatism, blurred vision, and nearsightedness.

Dr. Song, who was inspired by the adaptive optical system of NASA, explained, “Normal corneas have a smooth and convex surface, while their (keratoconus patients’) corneas are bumpy with many irregular concaves.”

While traditionally made glasses aren’t always customizable, and can be expensive when they are, 3D printing allows physicians to customize glasses more accurately to fit a patient’s cornea.

Launcher Completes Hot-Fire Test

Launcher, a space startup, is making metal 3D printed components for rocket engines, like a combustion chamber made using nickel-chromium alloy Inconel 718. The startup relies on EOS technology for its 3D printing needs, and recently completed another hot-fire test of its E-1 3D printed chamber rocket engine, which is being used to help Launcher validate the design of the 3D printed combustion chamber and internal cooling channels before the technology is applied to its much larger E-2.

During the 30 second test, Launcher achieved its highest “performance and temperature mix ratio for LOX/RP-1” and reached a combustion temperature of about 6,000°F, which is over twice the melting point temperature of its 3D printed Inconel 718 combustion chamber.

3D Printed NASA Helmet

Designer, animator, special effects creator, and maker Adam Savage, formerly of Mythbusters and currently of Tested, was excited to introduce a video on the site recently about a new member of the Tested family – 3D modeler and prop maker Darrell Maloney, also known as The Broken Nerd.

“Darrell came to my attention last year because he’s ludicrously prolific and incredibly facile at 3D printing and model making and ambitious in his scope,” Savage said in the new video.

“In our ongoing collaboration, Darrell will continue to deliver some videos for, including this one, in which I commissioned Darrell to make a space helmet for me.”

It’s not just any space helmet either – Savage is working to replicate the orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES), also called a pumpkin suit. This full pressure suit was worn by Space Shuttle crews after STS-65, and Darrell adapted a high-fidelity model that Savage purchased in order to make the helmet 3D printable. It took over 100 hours of 3D printing to create the helmet – you can check out the full process in the video below.

3D Printable SOFIA Flying Telescope Model

A 3D printed model of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is displayed beneath a photo of the real thing.

Engineers at the Ames Research Center have made a 3D printable eight-piece model of NASA’s flying telescope SOFIA, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The SOFIA telescope was built into a modified Boeing 747 wide-body jetliner, and flies at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet in order to observe the objects that fill our universe, like black holes, comets, and stars, from the stratosphere. The 3D printable SOFIA model, which includes a mini version of the real SOFIA’s 106″ reflecting telescope, was built to a scale of 1/200, making it just under a foot long.

The digital files to 3D print your own SOFIA model are free to download.

“SOFIA flies higher than commercial jetliners to get above 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks infrared light from reaching the ground. This is why SOFIA is capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes,” NASA officials said.

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