3D Metal Printing For Thrusters & Rockets

3D Metal Printed Thrusters

i3D MFG™ 3D printed thruster successful test fire. Image courtesy of Parabilis Space Technologies. “…congrats on this thruster! I know it was a tough part and a short timeframe, but you guys really pulled it off and should be proud.”

NASA recently tested a rocket engine 75% composed of 3D printed DMLS parts. “This new manufacturing process really opened the design space and allowed for part geometries that would be impossible with traditional machining or casting methods,” said NASA designer David Eddleman.

Because of the highly complex geometries and its capabilities in exotic metals like Inconel and Titanium, Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), 3D metal printing, is not only widely used for research, but is considered a cost-efficient manufacturing measure. Aerojet reports that its rocket made entirely from 3-D-printed components reduced manufacturing costs by 65 percent.

DMLS uses a 3D model to direct its lasers to fuse material together layer by layer in optimized micro slices. There is no waste or scrap metal, thereby reducing the cost of printing in exotic metals like Titanium and Inconel by 50-70%.


3D Metal Printed Rocket Thruster

Image courtesy of Bagaveev Corp. “Your printing methods are so good that we flow much more than expected from small holes.”

Thrusters are one of the most successful 3D metal manufacturing applications. DMLS allows rocket scientists to eliminate potential leaks or failure points by integrating and printing multiple part assemblies as one seamless part. “Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to push the envelope with both the development and application of 3-D printed technologies, and this successful test opens a new paradigm of possibilities that is not constrained by the limits of traditional manufacturing techniques,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Vice President of  Space Advanced Programs Julie Van Kleeck.  Read more at http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/commercial/3d-printed-rocket-propulsion-system-satellites-successfully-test-fired/#CigcAF5bh8z049Vk.99

Micro channels and organic flow patterns are also achievable with DMLS. 3D metal printing is a disruptive technology that facilitates efficiencies and custom designs on demand, both of which are desirable for satellite and rocket thruster needs. NASA, ESA and many private companies have successfully tested thrusters in the past 2 years. The thruster that NASA Marshall fired Fall 2015 is almost made up entirely of 3D-printed parts, the only piece that’s not 3D printed is the liquid oxygen pump.

First 3D Printed Rocket Launch Courtesy of Bagaveev Corporation


3D Metal Printed SatellitesThe U.S. is scheduled to begin construction on a radar array in 2015 which will track some 200,000 objects orbiting the planet. DMLS allows weight reduction by nearly 70% while maintaining the same part strength and integrity. Solid components can be latticed in custom honeycomb patterns for optimized weight reduction and part function. An article on 3ders.org comments, “Countless (NASA) greenlighted projects for satellites and the upcoming mission to Mars have included metal 3D printing in one way or another, often with the help of external partners.” i3D MFG™ is proud to supply NASA and other partners with leading edge 3D metal printed components.


3D Metal Printed RoboticsRobotic components are well suited to DMLS because of the complexity, customization and durability requirements. Lighter weight, low volume custom parts are cost effectively 3D printed in titanium, Inconel, maraging (tool) steel and stainless steel. Designers and engineers can use exotic metals previously too expensive to upgrade Aluminum parts while improving or maintain costs and weights.

3D Metal Printed Rockets, Satellites, and Spacecraft Articles

FastCompany Most Innovative Companies

Building A Lunar Base With 3D Printing

NASA 3D Resources

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Our Metal Technologies

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Aluminum (Al)

AlSi12 isn our most common DMLS Aluminum powder and is perfect for projects with good thermal and low weight considerations.  It is an optimal metal for parts with thin walls and complex geometries.

Titanium (Ti)

Ti64 is the standard DMLS powder which is well suited for Medical, Aerospace, Firearms, Energy and Automotive projects requiring corrosion resistance, strength, weight reduction and biocompatibility.

Stainless Steels

IN718 is a DMLS nickel; A Chromium alloy with superior heat resistance and typical heat treatment hardness of 40-47 HRC (370-450HB).  Rocket, space, aerospace, firearms, energy, and automotive industries rely on Inconel.

Maraging Steel

Maraging (Tool) Steel (MS1) & Stainless Steel (PH1).  Our steel powders have excellent strength and mechanical properties.  MS1 is a pre-alloyed, ultra-high strength steel powder most commonly used for tooling applications.

Inconel (IN718)

IN718 is a DMLS nickel; A Chromium alloy with superior heat resistance and typical heat treatment hardness of 40-47 HRC (370-450HB).  Rocket, space, aerospace, firearms, energy, and automotive industries rely on Inconel.

Custom Powders

IN718 is a DMLS nickel; A Chromium alloy with superior heat resistance and typical heat treatment hardness of 40-47 HRC (370-450HB).  Rocket, space, aerospace, firearms, energy, and automotive industries rely on Inconel.

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