Building A 3D-Printed Rocket Engine

Building A 3D-Printed Rocket Engine

Aug 8, 2016

By Kaylie Duffy, Product Design & Development, Manufacturing.net NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), located in Huntsville, Alabama, has pioneered space exploration and rocket advancements since it was established in 1960. Serving as one of the space agency’s largest centers, MSFC was responsible for various components of crucial missions, such as developing the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo moon program and leading the development of Space Shuttle propulsion elements and its external tank. Currently, Marshall is pursuing another potentially groundbreaking technology for spaceflight: additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing. The center’s exploration into 3D printing began in June 2011 when a team of MSFC engineers conducted the first hot fire test of a 3D printed part – a hot gas duct for the gas generator of the J-2X rocket engine. “That was the first time we were able to test a 3D printed part in a hot fire environment,” explains Nick Case, Marshall’s engine analysis team lead. “You can do analysis, material testing, and an individual component test, but it’s very hard to replicate the true environment of a hot fire rocket engine test.” After successfully testing the duct, the Marshall engineers moved on from the J-2X rocket engine to developing a smaller engine more compatible with the build box of available 3D printers. They designed a 35,000-pound liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen upper stage engine. However, the engineers wanted to apply as much 3D printing to the project as possible to prove the technology could be a whole-system solution – not just for piece parts. Since the second project began about three years ago, the team has designed, developed, and tested a 3D printed fuel turbopump that spins at 91,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), while producing 2,000 horsepower (hp). Additionally, they’ve designed, printed, and tested a main injector, control valves, speed lines, tubing, and piping. “We’ve 3D printed and tested just about every piece of the rocket engine that we’ve designed,” says Case. “And we’ve been very successful in our approach.”   Finding the Right Vendors When Marshall first started 3D printing rocket engine parts, there were only a few vendors in the country that had the necessary equipment and know-how...

Additive Manufacturing: The State of the Industry

Additive Manufacturing: The State of the Industry

Jul 27, 2016

By Terry Wohlers, President, Wohlers Assoicates Inc. , Tim Caffrey, Manufacturing Engineering This article includes highlights from Wohlers Report 2016, the 21st annual worldwide progress report on the 3D printing and additive manufacturing state of the industry. Additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing, terms used interchangeably, are alive and well. Organizations around the world, including many national governments, are investing substantial resources into the development of the technology and its adoption. An impressive number of new companies and businesses are developing AM products and services in ways the industry has not seen in the past. New machines and materials are becoming available at a breakneck pace. Novel applications and other advances suggest a future that will bridge AM’s prototyping past to a production future. This is stimulating countless organizations worldwide to explore ways in which they can become a part of this fast-growing and exciting industry. Those who have invested in some of the publicly traded stocks may be less than thrilled about the current state of the industry. Indeed, some of the changes in share prices over the past two years have not been pretty. Some have been downright ugly. Do not let low stock values fool you. When looking at almost everything else associated with AM, it is not difficult to become ecstatic about where it’s headed.   Investments Abound Many organizations worldwide are betting, some big, with their pocketbooks. For example, it was announced early last year that $259 million would be spent to create the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a public–private partnership project aimed at developing East Tennessee into an AM hub. The Department of Energy has committed $70 million, and the remainder is coming from a consortium of 122 companies and universities. In September 2015, Alcoa announced that it would spend $60 million to expand an R&D center to include the development of AM methods and materials. The following month, the state of New York said it would invest $125 million in a 3D printing facility that would operate as a public–private partnership. Norsk Titanium of Norway is its primary partner. In January 2016, Stryker announced that it would spend nearly $400 million to build a facility for the...

Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Jul 25, 2016

“Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the aerospace industry” By Paul Simon, Managing Director, ConsultEP Airbus and Boeing are pushing their supply chain to heroic efforts by ramping up production rates, whilst driving cost down, on existing and new aircrafts. This huge industrial challenge already has caused delays due to the numerous backward-looking supply chain management approaches being used: Wiring problems delayed the Airbus A380 supper-jumbo; Outsourcing snared Boeing’s 787 long-haul aircraft; Software bedevilled the Airbus A400M military transporter; Software glitches and slow engine start associated with P&W engine set back the deliveries of A320neos; Deliveries of A350 were impeded by late arrivals of lavatories and business seats from Zodiac Aerospace factories in the US. As a consequence, the aerospace industry has began the race to achieve a dramatic improvement in cost efficiency and operational effectiveness by implementing Industrial 4.0 / Smart factories. Since the Industrial Revolution, there have been five distinct waves of innovation, called Kondratieff waves, each of which began with disruptive new technologies and ended with global depression. The 4th and 5th waves, corresponding to the 3rd Industrial Revolution from 1970 to 2010, brought the explosion in machine technologies in our factories. In 1975, for the first time, we introduced computer technology on the shop floor in the form of Numerically Controlled (NC) equipment. Even before this technology was widespread, in 1980, we launched the next generation, Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) and Direct Numerically Controlled (DNC) equipments, which were interlinked and controlled from a single computer. By 1985, we started using Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS), which are capable of handling small lot production and rapidly changing product design. We are now on the cusp of the 4th Indutrial Revolution, which corresponds to the sixth Kondratieff wave. Within the aerospace industry, innovations in new composite material technology, Additive Manufacturing technology, Cyber-Physical systems, Internet Of Things and Internet Systems are coalescing into a smart manufacturing platform that will deliver vast superior cost efficiencies and better operational effectiveness. These smart manufacturing platforms allow the visualisation of the entire production network and allow individual equipment to make decisions on its own. In the automotive industry, which was early adopters, they are capable of handling a...

3D Printing: Rocking Manufacturing

3D Printing: Rocking Manufacturing

May 6, 2016

By John Hornick, Manufacturing Business Technology Most products are made of many parts. They result from many manufacturing steps performed by different machines, each with its own operator. 3D printing replaces these steps with fundamentally different machines that make finished products, with all their parts, fully assembled. 3D Printing Beats Traditional Manufacturing Traditional manufacturing depends on mass production and its economies of scale, and low labor costs, which are barriers to entry for would-be competitors. 3D printing eliminates those barriers because a single machine can make an entire part or product, fully assembled, and one worker may run an entire roomful of 3D printers. As the technology advances, anyone will be able to make anything, thereby democratizing manufacturing. Also, it is no more expensive, per part, to 3D print one part versus a million parts, to customize every part instead of making them all the same, and to make highly complex parts. Because 3D printing may eliminate the need for centralized mass production where labor costs are low, tens of thousands of small to medium sized 3D printing fabricators will pop up all over the world, making customized parts and products regionally. Revolutionizing Product Design Products have always been slaves to how they can be made. If a design cannot be made with traditional machines, it remains trapped on paper or in a computer. Thus, product designers have been forced to design for manufacture. 3D printing changes that. In a 3D printed world, designers no longer need to design for the limitations of existing machines because 3D printers can build almost any design, regardless of complexity. With virtually no limitations on manufacturing, 3D printers turn the creative process on its head. Product designs no longer need to be broken into multiple parts, according to manufacturing constraints. Designers can immerse themselves in the creative process because they can 3D print prototypes immediately. The mediocrity and monotony of mass-produced designs can be replaced with mass-customized designs. Because almost any product can be 3D printed, the design can follow the designer’s vision and is limited only by the imagination. Customers Become Competitors 3D printers can be used not just by traditional manufacturers, but also by their customers....

3D printing comes of age in U.S. manufacturing…

3D printing comes of age in U.S. manufacturing…

Apr 29, 2016

“3D printing comes of age in U.S. manufacturing, says PwC survey” By Norbert Sparrow, Plastics Today More than two-thirds of manufacturers use 3D printing Manufacturers in the United States have moved past “experimentation” and are now firmly committed to additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing (3DP). In fact, the technology has become “mainstreamed,” writes professional services firm PwC (New York, NY) in a report published this month on the role of 3D printing in the U.S. industrial manufacturing ecosystem. Be it in prototyping or end-product fabrication, “manufacturers of all stripes are building 3DP programs, and are likely to continue to expand those programs as advancements in 3D printers, software and printing materials . . . make adoption easier and more cost effective,” writes PwC, which produced the report in conjunction with the Manufacturing Institute (Washington, DC). The report is based on a poll of 120 U.S. manufacturers conducted in October 2015, and it is the second time that PwC has analyzed the adoption of 3D printing by U.S. manufacturers. Some interesting observations emerge when one compares this survey with the one conducted in 2014. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturers are using 3D printing in some form. That is slightly up from 2014—71.1% versus 67%—but what is more revealing are the shifts in usage that have occurred during those two years. In particular, a higher percentage of manufacturers are applying the technology to prototyping and parts fabrication than they did two years ago (51% versus 35%), and the number of companies “experimenting” with the technology has dropped from 28.9% to 13.2%. A larger percentage of companies anticipate the use of 3D printing to rise in high-volume production than in 2014. Two years ago, 38% of respondents expected 3D printing to find applications in high-volume manufacturing in the next three to five years; in the current survey, that number climbed to 52%. Most manufacturers continue to believe that 3D printing will be used primarily for low-volume, specialized products, writes PwC, although that number has slipped from 74% in 2014 to 67%. Those are among the 3D-printing opportunities perceived by manufacturers, but there are also challenges. In both surveys, supply chain restructuring topped the list. Other...