Popular Mechanics reports on the exciting conclusion to a multi-year development program spearheaded by Lockheed Martin.
This project, which is squarely centered in the small satellite industry, involved 3D printing a gigantic titanium dome for fuel tanks. “Engineers finished testing the 4-foot-diameter cap this month…Two domes will seal giant, high-pressure tanks carrying satellite fuel. The company will now offer the tank as a standard option for its LM 2100 satellite buses.”
As with other projects Lockheed has used 3D printing for, the technology has “slashed time and expense from tooling and R&D prototyping.” Prior to the completion of this particular project, “the largest 3D printed spacecraft part was the size of a toaster. Now Lockheed is making huge pieces of titanium this way.”
As Lockheed Martin’s Space Executive Vice President Rick Ambrose explains: “our largest 3D printed parts to date show we’re committed to a future where we produce satellites twice as fast and at half the cost.”
Even though titanium is lightweight and strong, which makes it ideal for spacecraft, using it with traditional manufacturing methods “led to more than 80 percent of the material going to waste while making the satellite domes.” Now, with the help of 3D printing, Ambrose adds delivery time “has dropped from two years to three months.” That’s an incredible acceleration of manufacturing time!
Image and Quotes Courtesy of Popular Mechanics