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Thread: 3D Printed Rocket Engine

  1. #1
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    3D Printed Rocket Engine

    From R&D Magazine

    The new age space race could soon include 3D printed rocket engines.

    Launcher, a Brooklyn-based start-up, has successfully used a 3D printer to produce a copper alloy E-1 engine with the long-term goal of 3D printing a liquid rocket engine that can take satellites into space.

    Max Haot, the CEO of Launcher, said in an interview with R&D Magazine that the company hopes to continue to expand the usages of 3D printers in an effort to make high performance rocket engines while reducing the cost.

    “So what we are doing is we are pushing as far as we can to build the largest, highest performance 3D printed engine by the end of 2020,” he said. “Right now we are doing subscale tests.

    “Recently we had a breakthrough where we successfully we able to 3D print in copper,” he added. “We are pushing both the size and the material so we can create a low cost but high performance rocket engine.”

    Launcher was founded in 2017 with the goal of 3D printing a liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket that will be able to take commercial satellites into low-Earth orbit.
    “Building a high performance liquid rocket engine requires an incredible amount of tooling and expertise to make the chambers,” he added. “Our goal is to 3D print as much as possible but obviously there is still some parts that you traditionally produce.”

    Haot explained that while SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, has developed engines the traditional way, Rocket Lab is the first private company to 3D print their engines.
    I think the last statement is technically true, but maybe a little bit of a stretch. SpaceX may not have 3D printed an entire engine, but they have printed parts. And it sounds like Launcher is not 100% 3D printing the engine.

    I also wonder about a copper engine. Great thermal conductivity, but kind of soft, particularly if it is pure copper.

    Still, interesting idea.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    Indeed they seem to either be seriously downplaying what SpaceX has done, or are "3D printing for the sake of 3D printing". I mean, if SpaceX makes and mounts e.g. the engine plumbing in the traditional way instead of 3D printing it, it's likely because that's what a cost/benefit analysis tells them. Still, it never hurts to have multiple parties working on these developments.

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