A recent Design News article 3D Printing Flies High describes new and innovative uses of 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing in space applications. The article begins:
3D printing techniques are reaching into space to help NASA astronauts. They're also creating production metal and plastic parts for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fighter jets, commercial planes, and cars. Research is underway to develop additive manufacturing (AM) techniques for making end-use parts for cars and planes from aluminum powders and other materials, including 3D printing carbon composites. Materials and processes are now pushing the edges of what's possible in automotive and aerospace applications.The article describes the work on a future Mars rover for manned exploration, saying, "When humans get to Mars, they will drive around the surface of the Red Planet in a rover much bigger than Curiosity that incorporates AM-made parts."
It also discusses 3D printing in space, in zero gravity conditions:
During several zero-gravity flights made by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, Made in Space tested a 3D Systems Bits from Bytes 3000 printer... Several objects were printed in flight, including a scaled-down wrench... Since tolerances are even tighter on the space station, a different 3D Systems model is now under test, Cathy Lewis, vice president of global marketing, told us.
The article continues with a discussion of aircraft and sub-orbital UAVs, stating: "In aircraft, additive manufacturing is becoming a best-practice for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) operations, especially for legacy in-service planes..." It specifically mentions Paramount's work, including:
- "Paramount, a 3D Systems company, has made several parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter using its high-temperature laser sintering (HTLS) process, general manager Jim Williams, told us. Last December, Paramount delivered a machine and materials solution, including a database, to Northrop-Grumman, which redesigned its existing F-35 parts to fashion them for HTLS."
- "At the end of June, Paramount delivered the first real parts using this technology, and is now refining its manufacturing capabilities to scale up and go into production. "We anticipate getting parts onto the first aircraft in August 2013," said Williams. "After that, there will be incremental increases with low rate initial production. The eventual goal is to manufacture five aircraft a week." A total of 900 F-35 parts have been specified for production via AM."
- "Paramount has manufactured parts for QinetiQ's Talon and Honeywell's T-Hawk UAVs. What makes HTLS different is the material: it can be processed at 380°C, much higher than nylon. It's naturally non-flammable and doesn't outgas, so it's also used in space applications. "Northrop is concerned about lightning strikes, and their AM materials had to be able to carry a charge through them, so much of our testing was on electrical properties," said Williams."
Paramount Industries, a 3D Systems Company, is a leading provider of additive manufacturing services and high temperature laser sintering for aerospace applications and Unmanned Air Systems (UAS)/Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV). For more information on these services, contact Paramount.