A custom-built 3D printer helps 3D print NASA’s 10-foot (3m) tall rocket nozzle liner demonstrator

Remember the Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology project aka RAMPT? NASA’s project that consists in advancing AM technologies for the production of rocket engine parts using metal powder and lasers.

In this vein, NASA is currently working with several machine vendors to build parts that will enhance performance of  the liquid rocket engines. One of this machine manufacturers is DM3D Technologies, a Michigan-based directed energy deposition (DED) firm that collaborates with Auburn University’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) as part of this project.

The only  problem is that, DM3D did not have a machine large enough to 3D-print a 10-foot (3m) tall rocket nozzle liner demonstrator for a large-scale, liquid rocket engine so they built one.

Knowing that the technology we’re developing for the RAMPT project could support future exploration missions is extremely gratifying,” said DM3D president Bhaskar Dutta. “Auburn and NASA are very much at the forefront of AM research, and we began working with them around four years ago to print a nozzle that was approximately two feet in size, which seemed large at the time. Now we’re printing one for the RAMPT program that’s five times that height. This is one of the largest rocket engine components ever 3D printed.”

The team at Auburn university explains that they were looking to 3D print a full-scale RS25 nozzle liner of 111 inches (2.9m) inches in height and 96 inches (2.4m) in diameter. It took several months to built the massive part which resulted in a greater than 50% reduction in processing time compared to traditional manufacturing techniques.

NCAME director Nima Shamsaei, Auburn’s technical lead for the RAMPT project shares their excitement at the end of this fabrication: “DM3D’s cutting-edge technology and NCAME’s expertise in materials characterization and qualification will continue the advancement and infusion of these technologies into future missions and allow for industry to continue to build upon this development for other new, large-scale applications”.

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