Opportunities and Challenges for Additive Manufacturing in Space Applications

DS 85-1: Proceedings of NordDesign 2016, Volume 1, Trondheim, Norway, 10th - 12th August 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Boks, Casper; Sigurjonsson, Johannes; Steinert, Martin; Vis, Carlijn; Wulvik, Andreas
Author: Dordlofva, Christo; Lindwall, Angelica; Törlind, Peter
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Luleĺ University of Technology, Sweden
Section: Methodology: Special Applications
Page(s): 401-410
ISBN: 978-1-904670-80-3


Additive manufacturing (AM) has been hyped the last few years because of the success of cheap 3D printers and the emerging Maker Movement. In industry AM has mainly been used for prototyping in the early phases. Now several companies start using metal based AM for more regular production of components, two main manufacturing methods exist – powder bed and wire. Powder bed has the advantage of better tolerances, surface finish, and can also create more complex geometries. Today the unit cost for metal-based AM is often very high, a sector suitable is space industry that creates complex high performance parts, using high performance materials and very small series (The European expendable launch vehicles Ariane 5 has roughly 80 launches in 20 years). This paper highlights the opportunities for using AM for space applications and also highlights challenges for engineering design research based on interviews with both manufacturers of AM-machines, designers developing rocket engines and a state of the art review. Traditionally, many details of rocket engines have been developed by casting and subsequent machining, the manufacturing time from finished geometry of the first component can be more than six months. Therefore, components are developed incrementally, designers do not dare to introduce new radical solutions. AM changes the development process completely, when the manufacturing of a single component changes from 6 months to less then a week it will be possible to create a more explorative iterative design cycle and explore more radical design solutions.
However, AM is a new method that has some interesting challenges:
• Qualification, compared to casting, where process parameters are known and simulation models take into account microstructure, residual stress and phase transformations. Simulation of the AM process is quite rudimentary and the production variance is quite large
• Design, AM has huge potential – it is technically possible to produce components with varying stiffness (by altering the internal structure of the component), build anisotropic components or mix material in a solid component. Design methods and CAE-tools are not yet adapted AM and requires a lot of the designer to fully utilize the capability of AM.

Keywords: Additive manufacturing, 3D-printing, rocket engines, design methods

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