Login

NASA using laser-powered 3D printing to build new rocket parts

NASA direct metal 3D printing

3D printing is reshaping the way we think about manufacturing and prototyping, and now NASA is using a version of the technique to build the next generation of rockets. The process, known as "selective laser melting," uses layers of metal powder traced in specific patterns by a laser. The powder welds together at the point of contact, and the process is then repeated in layers, building up a physical object in the same way traditional 3D printing works. "The laser will layer the melted dust to fuse whatever part we need from the ground up, creating intricate designs," says Ken Cooper, the lead of advanced manufacturing team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. "The process produces parts with complex geometries and precise mechanical properties from a three-dimensional computer-aided design."

The process is being used to create parts for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket that is slated to be used with the Orion capsule for an eventual mission to Mars. Selective laser melting, NASA says, can keep down costs and increase safety of the rocket parts. The 3D-printed parts will be evaluated as part of the J-2X engine tests later this year (the J-2X will be used as the upper-stage engine in the new NASA rocket). As far as official uses, NASA hopes to use the new parts on the first SLS test flight in 2017.


The Verge
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.
Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.