Launcher adds second VELO3D metal 3D printer to produce rocket engine parts

The adoption of 3D printing in rocket building continues to grow as space start-up Launcher adds its second VELO3D metal additive manufacturing system to its rocket 3D printing capacity.

The company, which was established to develop the world’s most efficient rocket to deliver small satellites to orbit, installed its first VELO3D Sapphire 3D printer back in April to print parts in Inconel and will now use this second machine to 3D print rocket parts in titanium. Following successful tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center of Launcher’s liquid oxygen (LOX) turbopump for its high-performance closed cycle liquid rocket engine, Launcher is now working on printing a fuel pump, flight turbine housing parts, and Orbiter pressure vessels.

“VELO3D really delivered on our turbopump, including its 3D printed rotating impeller, all of which functioned perfectly the very first time at 30,000 rpm, using the first prototype,” said Max Haot, founder & CEO of Launcher. “Rocket engine turbopump parts typically require casting, forging, and welding. Tooling required for these processes increases the cost of development and reduces flexibility between design iterations. The ability to 3D print our turbopump—including rotating Inconel shrouded impellers, thanks to VELO3D’s zero-degree technology—makes it possible now at a lower cost and increased innovation through iteration between each prototype.”

While Launcher has brought VELO3D’s metal AM technology in-house at its Los Angeles-based facility, the company is also expected to leverage VELO3D’s contract manufacturing partners like Stratasys Direct Manufacturing when scaling up production.

“We’re very excited about working with innovative companies like Launcher,” said Benny Buller, founder and CEO of VELO3D. “Not only have they already proven out the value and experienced the quality of advanced metal AM through current projects, they understand the potential that this technology holds for expanding the success of their out-of-this-world enterprise.”

Launcher belongs to a growing list of companies that have adopted VELO3D’s “support-free” metal printing technology, including a number of aerospace and space companies such as SpaceX and Boom Supersonic. It also reaffirms a trend for 3D printing in the rocket building market, which has seen the likes of Virgin Orbit 3D printing parts for orbital class rockets and start-ups like Orbex using huge custom machines from EOS’s AMCM (Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines) business to manufacture rocket engines. 

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