Everything you need to know about 3D printing rockets

As you may have heard, about a week ago Marshall Space Flight successfully tested a rocket injector that was 3D Printed. Well actually the first tests were earlier than that, but everyone took notice when the video posted below (and others taken at the same time) were posted.

What you might not know is why this is just now a “breakthrough” when 3D printing in metal isn’t new. Shapeways has been printing metal pieces since 2009, and the technology was first patented in the 80s. The biggest difference is that traditionally 3D printing in metal has been done using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) whereas this injector was printed in Inconel using Selective Laser Melting (SLM). If the difference isn’t clear… in SLS the laser fuses the metal powder together through a localized reaction, whereas SLM essentially melts (or welds) all of the metal in the part. There is a little bit of research going into the difference in properties etc. between the two. The two processes are being improved daily, but everything I have read or seen shows SLM to be stronger (though only marginally in most materials). If your curious, Marshall uses the M2 Cusing by Concept Laser. So the technology specific to printing this part is very new. Marshall just started testing out the technology a year ago.

Enter SpaceX. Yesterday SpaceX posted the video below showing off there cool Iron Man inspired 3D model viewing technology. At the end of the video they print a part to scale in inconel using SLS (specifically using this printer).  So SpaceX posts a video where they 3D print an inconel engine part and everyone is too distracted by the shiny sci-fi-esque toy  to really grasp that, while the call the part a “prototype”, it is a functional prototype and they could (& probably will) make the end product the exact same way. The only thing left to be seen (from my perspective) is if the SLS printed parts will hold up just as well as the SLM parts.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the SLM printed rocket injectors is currently at Stennis and I have been given the opportunity to handle it and give feedback? If you know me, you know how much I love both 3D printing and rockets, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to tweet/post pictures at the time but I was told no :/   I guess I’ll settle for writing this post, even though I have to leave out some of my coolest thoughts/opinions on the matter 😉

200 pages per week goal, week 1 | The Tipping Point, & ‘Alot’ of links

As part of my 2013 goals I committed to writing a blog summarizing all of the pages I read every week. Last week was my first week of the reading goal and I’ve learned a few things: First, that 200 pages might be too low of a goal; second, that I need to do a better job of catologing all of the things that I read during a week; and third, that either I need to blog more in between or post these summaries on a completely different medium, otherwise this blog will be entirely devoted to my reading list.


The tipping point book review

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell. (304 pages)

You can read my 3 paragraph Goodreads review here. To sum it up in fewer words, Gladwell eloquently uses entertaining and intriguing stories to outline what key ingredients are necessary to tip a message over the edge into an epidemic, or what we now commonly call “viral”.


The Oatmeal & hyperbole and a half (too many pages)
I had a spare hour or two on Sunday and I needed a good laugh, so I read ‘alot’ of comics by The Oatmeal, including this one. Which lead me to Allie Brosh’s website. Perhaps everyone else already knows, but Allie Brosh is creator of epic comics such as “This is why I will never be an adult” Where the image “clean all the things”; she is also the creator of the “alot” monster. She is currently battling depression, and has been for quit some time. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes her the best.
CNN: Print your own life-size robot for under $1,000 (~1 page)
An open source robotics project where you can print most of the parts to a humanoid robot. It’s exciting, it’s open, I like it, but… I don’t think 3D printing is always the right mfg process for parts, and I don’t think humanoid is usually the right design for a robot. More often than not a robot can preform a task better w/o articulating fingers. I think that the idea behind encouraging people to collaborate and make there own robot is fantastic. I don’t think the robot itself is ideal. But I am definitely glad to see this sort of work happening.
3d printed robot
Meet ATHLETE, NASA’s Next Robot Moon Walker (~1 page)
Nasa has a cool moon walker. Check out the blog for full details.
NASA Moon walker
FYI: Why Is There A Winter Flu Season? (~2 pages)
 A good analysis of why and how the cold weather actually effects the probability of you catching a cold.

via Popular Science

So those are the highlights of the week. And I am realizing that capturing the content of all of the things that I read is a great exercise for me to commit the knowledge to memory as well as to help people by condensing content and sharing my insight. Granted I’m not an expert, but I like to share what I do know, and my semi-unique perspective on the world. Given all of that I think it would be easier to give blog digests as I read them, and the book updates once a week. Or as I finish the book. That is a lot more content than I normally share on this blog, and somewhat out of the vein of what I share on here. This blog is typically reserved for my thoughts, life events, etc. And occasionally news that I find so impactful that I feel the need to talk about the implications at length. Next week you can expect to see a new blog or tumblr from me with all of the content generated by my two part goal to (1) read over 200 pages per week and (2) share that information.

Here are a few more links of what I found interested this week if you’ve actually managed to read this far and are still interested 😉

NASA Joins ESA’s “Dark Universe” Mission

Awesome skateboard rack made out of PVC

A (physics) Trampoline of Light

Going Paperless: Getting “9 Things” Done With Penultimate and Evernote

Audi Envisions A Future Of Laser Brakes and OLED Trim

Engineers pinpoint origin of bone fractures