NASA engineers use laser 3D-printers for the production of metal parts, such as the components of a rocket engine of the next generation of carrier rocket, Space Launch System (SLS). A technique called "selective laser melting" can not only simplify the production, but also significantly reduce the cost of it.
Rocket engines are not inferior to the complexity of the device high-precision clock, while the clock will not have to deal with corrosive and cryogenic liquids and gases, the temperature of which can easily melt steel, and with destructive loads and vibrations. Rocket engines have to deal with all these factors, starting with the first application of it in practice, with umeschayas in a very confined space. Production of parts for these rocket engines - this is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process. Since many of these components are very complex to manufacture, NASA engineers decided to apply for this 3D-printers.
SLS for NASA uses M2 Cusing Machine from the German company Concept Laser. The principle of M2 is similar to other 3D-printers, but instead of polymer powders used stainless steel, heat resistant steel, aluminum, titanium and nickel alloys that are melted by the fiber laser power at 200W.
"In fact, this machine takes metal powder and fuses it with a high-energy laser on a certain pattern," - said Ken Cooper, the engineer of the Marshall Center. "Laser puts a layer of powder and fuse it melts to form a desired shape of any level of complexity. This process allows you to create components with complex geometry and mechanical properties specified on the basis of three-dimensional computer models."
This method avoids the manufacturing process from a plurality of intermediate steps, reducing rates twice.
"This process greatly reduces the time spent on production parts. So, what took months can now be done in weeks or even a few days," - said Andy Hardin of SLS. "This saves both time and money. Also, since we do not use welding cells have a high structural strength and durability, and this ensures the safety of the flight."
NASA plans to use the M2 print engine component J-2X, which is used in the SLS. These components will be subjected to structural and thermal tests, in the case of successful completion of which will be used to deliver astronauts to the moon and beyond.
The first unmanned flight of SLS is scheduled for the second half of 2017.