Additive ManufacturingAerospaceAM for SpaceCeramic Additive Manufacturing

New microgravity AM technique uses pre-ceramic resins and SLA on the ISS

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Redwire‘s Ceramic Manufacturing Module (CMM) manufactured a ceramic part using pre-ceramic resins and additive stereolithography technology in space for the first time. The commercially developed in-space manufacturing facility successfully operated with full autonomy to manufacture a single-piece ceramic turbine blisk in orbit along with a series of material test coupons. The successful manufacture of these test samples in space is an important milestone to demonstrate the proof-of-potential for CMM to produce ceramic parts that exceed the quality of turbine components made on Earth. The ceramic blisk and test coupons will be stowed aboard the SpaceX Dragon CRS-21 spacecraft and returned to Earth for analysis. CMM, developed by Redwire subsidiary Made In Space, is the first SLA printer to operate on orbit.

“This is an exciting milestone for space enabled manufacturing and signals the potential for new markets that could spur commercial activity in low Earth orbit,” said Tom Campbell, president of Made In Space. “Building on our in-space manufacturing expertise and our partnership with NASA, Redwire is developing advanced manufacturing processes on orbit that could yield sustainable demand from terrestrial markets and creating capabilities that will allow humanity to sustainably live and work in space.”

Image Credits: European Space Agency / Flickr under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

CMM aims to demonstrate that ceramic manufacturing in microgravity could enable temperature-resistant, reinforced ceramic parts with better performance, including higher strength and lower residual stress. For high-performance applications such as turbines, nuclear plants, or internal combustion engines, even small strength improvements can yield years-to-decades of superior service life.

“The Ceramic Manufacturing Module’s successful on-orbit operations is an important step towards full-scale manufacturing of materials products that can improve industrial machines that we use on Earth,” said Michael Snyder, chief technology officer of Redwire. “The space manufacturing capabilities demonstrated by CMM have the potential to stimulate demand in low Earth orbit from terrestrial markets which will be a key driver for space industrialization.”

CMM was developed in partnership with the ISS Research Integration Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The ceramic facility is one of three ISS pilot payloads developed through this partnership that aims to catalyze and scale demand for commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit by producing high-value products for terrestrial use. Made In Space first demonstrated is pre-ceramic resins SLA printing technology found inside CMM through a series of parabolic flights funded through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program in 2016.

Additional technical partners for the CMM mission include HRL Laboratories of Malibu, California and Sierra Turbines of San Jose, California.

The successful CMM mission builds upon Redwire’s flight heritage with four other additive manufacturing facilities developed by the Made In Space team that have successfully flown and operated on the space station.

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Adam Strömbergsson

Adam is a legal researcher and writer with a background in law and literature. Born in Montreal, Canada, he has spent the last decade in Ottawa, Canada, where he has worked in legislative affairs, law, and academia. Adam specializes in his pursuits, most recently in additive manufacturing. He is particularly interested in the coming international and national regulation of additive manufacturing. His past projects include a history of his alma mater, the University of Ottawa. He has also specialized in equity law and its relationship to judicial review. Adam’s current interest in additive manufacturing pairs with his knowledge of historical developments in higher education, copyright and intellectual property protections.

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