Orbex, a UK-based spaceflight company, has today commissioned Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines (AMCM) to build the largest industrial 3D printer in Europe.
The custom-made printer will allow Orbex to print more than 35 large-scale rocket engine and main stage turbopump systems annually, as the company scales up its production capabilities for launches.
The 3D printing system will print rocket parts using a custom blend of metals including titanium and aluminium to create a lightweight system designed to withstand the temperature and pressure extremes of spaceflight.
The printer will allow Orbex will print components such as rocket engines as a single piece, eliminating the weaknesses which can arise from joining and welding.
The multi-million pound deal was signed with AMCM, following a series of successful trials printing various large-scale rocket components over a number of months.
The 3D printed rocket components will be critical parts of Orbex’s launch vehicle, a 19-metre long “microlauncher” rocket, designed to deliver small satellites into polar orbits around the Earth.
Uniquely for a commercial rocket, Prime is fueled by bio-propane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel which reduces CO2 emissions by 90% compared to kerosene-based fuels.
The Prime rocket was designed to be re-usable, incorporating a novel recovery and reusability system. The rocket has also been designed to leave zero debris in orbit around the Earth.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex said: “a large-scale in-house 3D printing system like this gives us far greater speed and agility as we ramp up production.
“After exhaustive trials, the results we’ve seen from AMCM were very successful and we’re confident that we’ve made the right choice of partner.”
Martin Bullemer, MD of AMCM said: “Investing in a large-scale 3D printing system like this says a lot about Orbex’s ambition in the European spaceflight sector”
“If they are to lead the European market, they need the production reliability and speed that a large-scale 3D printing system like this will give them.
“Although this is a major purchase, it will allow for significant cost control for Orbex in the years to come.”