3D printing, especially metal printing, is increasingly used in rocket manufacturing. This technology enables engineers to innovate the design and manufacture of rocket components in a shorter time.
One example is the injector head of the Ariane 6 launcher, developed by Ariane Grope, a joint venture between Airbus Group and Safran.
The fuel injector is one of the core components of the propulsion module, which forces the fuel mixture into the combustion chamber.
Traditionally, the fuel injection head is composed of dozens or even hundreds of parts, which need to be processed and welded together. In contrast, 3D printing enables these components to be manufactured as a whole.
In the example of the injection head of the Ariane 6 launcher, the research team adopted a design that originally required 248 parts and reduced it to a 3D printed part. The material used for the parts is a nickel-based alloy.
This part, it will be impossible to produce traditional methods, and then use 3D printing SLM technology.
Although casting and processing used to take more than three months, using the EOS m400-4 3D printer with four parallel lasers reduced the AM production time to 35 hours. Another advantage is that the cost is reduced by 50%.
Aircraft internal parts
3D printed plastic parts are very useful in aerospace applications, such as aircraft interiors.
The interiors of commercial aircraft cabins need to be updated regularly. And this process may involve replacing parts such as wall panels. The need for customization means that parts will usually be produced in small batches. Fast turnaround time is also necessary.
Airbus is a good example. As of 2018, the company has produced and is preparing to install 3D printed spacers on its commercial A320 aircraft. Traditionally, new plastic parts will be produced using injection molding-which is an expensive and complicated procedure for low volume, specialized requirements and high complexity requirements.
Through 3D printing (FDM), Airbus can produce parts with complex features, such as lattice structures, without any additional manufacturing costs. As a result, the spacer panel is 15% lighter than the panel manufactured by traditional methods. And it helps to reduce the weight of the aircraft itself.