Metal Technology (MTI), an Oregon based manufacturing company, will collaborate with NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) to 3D print next-gen rocket engine parts.
NASA is endeavoring to integrate 3D direct metal printing onto their design for quite some time. Several business units are working on projects in an effort to leverage best practices in digital and additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing has a very good business case for space flight developments. Metal Technology has embraced 3D printing and will produce the first-article test components for some of the customers they have served with regular manufacturing techniques for over three decades.
Multiple teams of propulsion engineers and scientists are integrating features or joining individual parts using additive manufacturing. The economic impact of adopting 3D printing on the total part count-reduction is massive.
Features like conformal channels for regenerative cooling can increase the performance of propulsion systems. Creation of geometry unconstrained by conventional manufacturing methods can reduce weight and improve the efficiency significantly.
MTI has already produced two components for NASA JSC. The materials can withstand extreme heat and corrosive environments without losing their brittleness or rigidity. “The Project provided amazing dialogue and collaboration between the NASA and MTI development teams and the results were excellent,” said Gary Cosmer, Chief Executive Officer for Metal Technology (MTI).
The resistance to high temperatures would be impossible without engineered cooling, an area where 3D printing shines. Engineers were able to build invisible channels – 60 micron layers at a time – to recirculate gases throughout the component.
MTI has already produced forgings for the Orion capsule, which will be the likely platform for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS). The overall weight reduction and improved performance are significant milestones for NASA as it advances further in space technologies.
Image courtesy of MTI