NASA engineers are using a 3D laser printing system to produce intricate metal parts such as rocket engine components for its next-generationSpace Launch System (SLS). The method called “selective laser melting “ (SLM) promises to streamline fabrication and significantly reduce production costs.
Rocket engines are as complex as precision watches, but watches don’t have to deal with highly corrosive or cryogenic liquids, gases hot enough to melt steel, or destructive stresses and vibrations.
Rocket engines have to do all this the first time they’re used and they have to fit a great deal of gear into a very cramped space. Fabricating the parts for these engines is an exacting, time consuming and expensive task. Since many of their components are very intricate, making them is just the sort of job for 3D printers.