The aerospace and defense industries are bringing to 3D printing, not only for the reason of the government funding synonymous with the innovation, but for the reason of the create benefits that it offers. By re-engineering parts to have complicated geometries or join previously disparate components, new creates can reduce material mass and improve efficiency. In turn, we’ve seen a number of corporations and organizations start testing the viability of 3D printed rocket components. The latest is US defense developer Orbital ATK, who have only revealed the successful test of a 3D printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA Langley Research Center.
3D printed via powder bed fusion, yet the precise energy source is not disclosed, the combustor was put through a battery of tests, that include 20-day exposures to diverse high-temperature hypersonic flight conditions, that resulted in one of the longest recorded propulsion wind tunnel tests. The results of the tests demonstrated to the team that the part met or exceeded requirements in a number of scenarios, demonstrating that powder bed fusion was capable of making significant undertaking parts.
Image via NASA/MSFC/David Olive.
Orbital ATK Missile Products general manager Pat Nolan said of the project, “Additive making opens up new possibilities for our createers and engineers. This combustor is a excellent example of a component that was not easy to create only a few years ago. This successful test can encourage our engineers to go on to explore new creates and use these new tools to lower costs and minimize making time.”
As aerospace and defense developers embrace this increasingly validated innovation, their engineers can have to learn to create in a whole new light. And, as multi-metal 3D printing becomes possible, there can be whole new methods of create they’ll have to take on, as well.