BEAMIT is providing NASA-approved 3D printed AlSi7Mg parts for the Cygnus spacecraft program.

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Step into the Future: 3D Printing in Spacecraft Manufacturing

The aerospace industry is known for pushing the boundaries of innovation and technology. It’s no surprise, then, that 3D printing has found its way into the production of spacecraft components. Italian 3D printing service bureau BEAMIT SpA is at the forefront of this revolution, as they recently announced their collaboration with Power Electrical Resistor manufacturer Telema, Italian electronics company Blu Electronic, and aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space to produce and supply 3D printed aerospace components for the Cygnus program.

The Cygnus program, aimed at resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) and advancing space exploration, is using Cygnus spacecraft manufactured by Northrop Grumman. What sets these spacecraft apart is the use of 3D printed aerospace components made from NASA-qualified AlSi7Mg aluminum. These parts, created using Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF), are NADCAP certified and exceed NASA’s minimum material requirements, particularly in terms of fatigue data.

BEAMIT’s LPBF 3D printing process offers several advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques. Not only are the components produced lighter, but they also possess impressive tensile strength and temperature resistance. Additionally, the process offers sustainability benefits by reducing material waste and energy consumption in aerospace manufacturing.

The integration of BEAMIT’s LPBF 3D printed AlSi7Mg components into the Cygnus program will result in spacecraft that are more robust, lightweight, and technologically advanced. These parts have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they exceed NASA’s minimum requirements, making them reliable and durable for space exploration missions.

This collaboration between BEAMIT, Telema, Blu Electronic, and Thales Alenia Space is a significant step forward for the space industry. It highlights the capabilities of additive manufacturing in aerospace applications and solidifies a commitment to advancing the Cygnus program in the future.

While the use of 3D printed components in spacecraft manufacturing is relatively new, it’s not the only example of additive manufacturing making its mark in the aerospace industry. Australian heat transfer specialist Conflux Technology recently partnered with German space rocket manufacturer Rocket Factory Augsburg to embed 3D printed heat exchanger technology into an orbital rocket. This heat exchanger, made from Conflux Technology’s Monel K 500 metal alloy material using EOS M300-4 Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology, offers high corrosion resistance, strength, and durability.

Chinese aerospace firm Galactic Energy is also embracing 3D printing for manufacturing the country’s largest reusable rocket engine. The Welkin 50-ton LOX/kerosene engine utilizes over 30 Farsoon-3D printed parts, including a turbo pump and LOX/kerosene main valve housing.

The use of 3D printing in the aerospace industry is an exciting development, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in space exploration. As technology continues to advance, we can expect further innovations in additive manufacturing for spacecraft components.

If you’re interested in working in the additive manufacturing industry, visit 3D Printing Jobs to explore available roles and kickstart your career. Stay up to date with the latest 3D printing news by subscribing to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter, following us on Twitter, liking our Facebook page, and subscribing to the 3D Printing Industry Youtube channel.

(image source: SLM Solutions)

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