25th of May, a US based Rocket Lab successfully launched their 56 feet tall and 4 feet wide, electron rocket, from a private launch pad in New Zealand.
There is something special about this rocket. Not only was it the first to launch from a private site, but also the first to be powered by an engine made almost entirely using 3D printing.
All of the major parts were 3D printed, and what is more interesting is that the engine was made within 24 hours.
The 3D production process is completely revolutionizing manufacturing and is beginning to be used in ever more important structures and uses. One thing that 3D printing does really well is to produce highly complicated shapes.
Boeing is a good example, as its microlattice last month produced mechanically sound structures that are 99.9% air. This kind of 3d printing process is really hard to achieve. The weight savings can lead to major benefits through the use of less fuel.
3d printing is prone to work best for the production of relatively small, complex parts instead of large, simple structures, where the higher material and processing costs would outweigh any advantage.
3D printing tends to work best for the production of relatively small, intricate parts rather than large, simple structures, where the higher material and processing costs would outweigh any advantage.
Another advantage of 3d printing process is that it can also produce whole systems in one go rather than from lots of assembled parts. A great example of this is that NASA used it to reduce the components in one of its rocket injectors from 115 to just two.
3D printer in space
Did you know that there’s a 3d printer on the International Space Station, and if something breaks, engineers can send up a design for a replacement and the astronauts can print it out. Isn’t that awesome?
But the bad news is that the current printer only uses plastic materials so it’s more likely to be used for making tools for low-performance parts. But this is not the end because as 3D printers are getting more advanced, they are more easily becoming able to use other materials. As the advancement rises, one day, people in space could produce their own food items and even biological materials.
Although it is still argued that 3D printing is not economical when it comes to the production of very large parts, but at the same time more tests are scheduled and it will be interesting to see how successful these 3D engines will be, once more testing has been completed.