3D Printing and Space

The manufacturing industry is changing. There was a time when motion control was groundbreaking, and automation was remarkable. Now automation is the standard in manufacturing, and wouldn’t draw so much as a murmur at the water cooler.

As technology advances manufacturing continues to benefit. For example, 3D printers are becoming more and more common in manufacturing.

3D printers were originally used for research and development and prototyping, but are now being implemented in the actual manufacturing of products. Production using 3D printers is known as additive manufacturing.

Unlike traditional manufacturing where parts or products are made through the shaping or removal of material, additive manufacturing essentially builds parts and products by adding additional layers on top of each other.

People are excite to see how 3D printing will change manufacturing. Increased customization, speed, and decreased cost are just a few ways in which 3D printing can impact industry.

Lower costs is a constant goal for manufacturers, and a huge advantage to 3D printing. Recently, a New Zealand based company found a way to use 3D printing to significantly reduce the cost of launching satellites into orbit.

According to a CNBC report, it can cost anywhere between $10 million and $50 million to send a satellite into space, however a company called Rocket Lab has found a way to cut the cost to $4.9 million per launch.

Rocket Lab has designed an engine that is, practically, 3D printed. They call the engine Rutherford, and it’s the first ever oxygen/hydrocarbon engine that uses 3D printing for all of the primary components.

The Rutherford engine powers Rocket Lab’s Electron, a carbon composite vehicle, to take satellites into orbit. The company says that they can do weekly launches, a previously unprecedented launch rate.

If 3D printing can save $5-45 million and deliver weekly space launches, imagine what it can do for manufacturing!