Article

Juno takes 3D printed parts to farther distances

  • Nimish Sany
  • 9 July , 2016

Juno has been in the news recently for reaching Jupiter and sending back pictures of the planet. The achievement has been lauded for NASA's use of solar panels on Juno to navigate it. But it turns out; Juno was also the first planetary expedition spacecraft to be built using 3D printing.Lockheed Martin, the leading defense and aerospace manufacturer was assigned the task of building Juno. The manufacturer, well known for their endeavors featuring 3D printing to reduce cost, improve delivery schedules and making aircraft prototypes and parts lightweight chose 3D printing for Juno too.   

specifications of Juno by NASA

Image:Nasa

Among the 3D printed parts used in Juno are waveguide titanium brackets which according to Lockheed Martin are used to “attach the waveguide, a rectangular pipe used for conducting radio frequency signals between spacecraft components." Juno is equipped with eight such titanium brackets and employing 3D printing for making these parts has given much advantage to the makers.

"We were allowed to take half the cost out and half the schedule out for these parts that did go on the Juno spacecraft," says Slade Gardner, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. Fellow.

Juno will be carrying the parts farther into outer space, about more than 588 million kilometers; making these parts the farthest traveling 3D printed product in the history. With such fame comes responsibility too, hence titanium. Lockheed used Arcam EBM machines to fabricate the parts using titanium. Arcam EBM process takes place in vacuum where electron beams are made incident on a titanium powder bed in an argon chamber, making the desired pattern.So far, the brackets have been functional all the while during its 5 year journey. When asked about further role of 3D printing in space missions, Slade remarks, “nothing is holding us back. It's simply a matter of putting in the time and doing the engineering."

Electron beam melting 3D printer Arcam Q10

An Arcam Q10 EBM 3D printer.  Image: directindustry.com

NASA has also reportedly fire-tested a rocket engine comprising of 3D printed parts and also a 3D printed turbo pump to go with it. While both of these are in test phases, it looks like even sky is not the limit for 3D printing. 

Author

Nimish Sany: I bleed my thoughts on paper. And if I cant find a paper, blogs serve the purpose just fine.

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