Though not an original equipment manufacturer, NASA has been one of the foremost innovators for 3D printing design and application. Using Selective Laser Sintering or SLS on metals NASA is able to more quickly make more optimally designed and mechanically robust components, while cutting out the majority of the weight. They feel that their, “team’s innovative work here at Marshall and the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing is just one example of how NASA is helping to reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector.”
The goal is for these parts to help us reach a familiar goal:
The emerging technology will build parts for America’s next flagship rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, which is designed to take humans, equipment and experiments beyond low Earth orbit to nearby asteroids and eventually to Mars.
The main reasons NASA sees an advantage in Additive Manufacturing are pretty simple:
There are two major benefits to this process, which are major considerations for the Space Launch System Program: savings and safety.
“This process significantly reduces the manufacturing time required to produce parts from months to weeks or even days in some cases,” said Andy Hardin, the integration hardware lead for the Engines Office in SLS. “It’s a significant improvement in affordability, saving both time and money. Also, since we’re not welding parts together, the parts are structurally stronger and more reliable, which creates an overall safer vehicle.” It turns out these 3D printed parts can handle more stress from the launch than any other welded part.