3D printing industry leader Stratasys supported a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, by providing an unspecified number of 3D printed rocket parts. The Atlas V rocket flew serial production 3D printed parts that highlight the ability to replace metal components with 3D printed lightweight thermoplastic components.
ULA has openly credited Stratasys for providing invaluable assistance in engineering, production tooling and production parts. “It’s been impressive to see how ULA has innovated with industrial 3D printing, and we are excited to continue working with them to push the technology further,” says Scott Sevcik, Director, Business Development – Aerospace & Defense at Stratasys.
The Ultem Space Launch
Through Stratasys’ FDM additive manufacturing technology, numerous components were 3D printed for the Atlas V ducting system in the rocket’s payload fairing. They included brackets, nozzles, and panel close-outs. These were 3D printed in ULTEM 9085, a high temperature, high stress resistant thermoplastic by Sabic, on a Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer.
“Stratasys continues to be a great supplier to ULA, supporting our Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. Our partnership has enabled Stratasys to bring parts such as tooling and support equipment into ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama to help us build rockets,” said Greg Arend, ULA manager, Additive Manufacturing.
Once again 3D printing Additive proved to offer invaluable manufacturing advantages for design flexibility and unique material properties to optimize parts that can withstand extremely harsh environment such as an orbital launch. It also resulted in substantial cost and time benefits in comparison to traditional manufacturing methods. ULA and Stratasys are proving that AM is the only possible manufacturing method for the space age but, then again, we already knew that.