Traditional rockets designs like the Titan rockets, which powered the Apollo missions to the Moon, have more than a 100,000 parts. These need to be fastened together with nuts & bolts, specials glues, which have to withstand enormous pressure during launch. 3D printing can help manufacture rockets & rocket parts, ‘whole’, using novel methods of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM). This leads to an almost 100x reduction in the number of parts & components. This not only makes the rockets stronger in terms of withstanding external pressures, but also lighter.
Using 3D printing to manufacture rockets, drastically reduces lead times. Designing 3Dmodels in proprietary virtual modelling software & printing these models takes a short time of only 60 days, in some cases. This is a 10x reduction compared to traditional methods, where it would take more than two years to manufacture a new rocket that is ready for space launch.
In addition to making the process of manufacturing rockets faster, 3D printing also helps in making them efficient. Fuel tanks & engines make up for the heaviest parts of a rocket. By designing fuel tanks in one piece using novel metal alloys (carbon fiber, titanium aluminide, graphene), 3D printing can help make fuel tanks leak proof & lighter. Engines also benefit greatly due to unique & efficient thruster & combustion chamber designs. Rockets manufactured using 3D printing have been proven to provide almost 98% more thrust, at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods of making them. This means more lighter, powerful & efficient rocket engines & more space for carrying items in the payload to be delivered.
As the Human race slowly approaches the dream of inter-space & inter-planetary travel, rockets & their indispensable utility in space launches remain paramount to realizing this dream. Luckily, for all of us who dream of travelling to the stars, 3D printing is here to expedite this voyage into the star-studded highways of space, by making rockets faster, cheaper & more efficient than ever before.