3D Printing Industry has caught wind of NASA’s aim to license Laser Wire Direct Closeout (LWDC), which is a brand-new nozzle-specific metal 3D printing process. Once this process is license, NASA will be able to commercialize it.
This new method of metal 3D printing was developed “by engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama. Specially created for the additive fabrication of nozzles, the method is competitive in time and price against traditional manufacturing techniques.”
Now that NASA is in the process of licensing Laser Wire Direct Closeout, it will be able to “revitalize and transform its advanced manufacturing technologies for rocket engines.” Laser Wire Direct Closeout is a great example of an energy deposition process, “relying on a wire-based feedstock, in comparison with powder bed fusion (PBF) additive manufacturing techniques, LWDC is a freeform process.”
As one can probably already guess, the creation of rocket propulsion nozzles is as difficult, well, as rocket science. The nozzles’ conical structures are “manufactured with internal coolant channels, responsible for delivering high pressure fluid that protects the walls from overheating. In a regeneratively cooled nozzle, these channels must be sealed precisely to keep the coolant inside.”
As MSFC’s Senior Propulsion Engineer Paul Gradl elaborates: “The manufacturing process is further complicated by the fact that the hot wall of the nozzle is only the thickness of a few sheets of paper and must withstand high temperatures and strains during operation.”
However, with the introduction of LWDC, this “process facilitates the precise closing of these channels. Engineers are now seeking other applications that could benefit from the process.”
As MSFC’s Engineering Directorate Preston Jones concludes: “what makes this development project so unique is there were three separate, state-of-the-art, advanced manufacturing technologies used together to build a better nozzle and prove it out through hot-fire testing — an example of why Marshall continues to be a worldwide leader in manufacturing of propulsion technologies.”
Image and Quotes Courtesy of NASA and 3D Printing Industry