NASA 3-D "Prints" a Functional Rocket Engine Part

On Wednesday, NASA introduced people to three-dimensional printing company Directed MFG in a press release announcing a powerful success using "additive manufacturing."

Making use of equipment from Directed MFG, and working from NASA's own parts designs, NASA recently built and tested a full-scale 3-D printed rocket engine fuel injector manufactured from layers of nickel-chromium alloy powder. This component was then incorporated into a rocket engine that was test-fired Aug. 22, generating "a record 20,000 pounds of thrust."

The printed injector was used to inject liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen into the rocket engine's combustion chamber, which when ignited produced 10 times more thrust than ever previously produced using a 3-D printed part.

NASA described the significance of the accomplishment thusly: "One of the keys to reducing the cost of rocket parts is minimizing the number of components. This injector had only two parts, whereas a similar injector tested earlier had 115 parts. Fewer parts require less assembly effort, which means complex parts made with 3-D printing have the potential for significant cost savings."

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