3D printed space rockets [Innovation highlight]

I have talked about the value of 3D printing frequently before, such as in the context of printing unique shapes and even entire homes.

But I recently saw this video about 3D printed rockets may yet be the most impressive use case I have come across.

A company called Relativity Space has developed the world’s largest metal 3D printers, allowing them to print entire sections of rockets which previously would have needed thousands of separate parts.

They claim that this will result in:

  • Reliability: 100x Fewer Parts
  • Speed: 10x Faster Production Time
  • Flexibility: No Fixed Tooling and a Simple Supply Chain
  • Optimization: Compounding Iteration Quality and Time Improvements

What I find especially impressive is the close link between completely disrupting the design process as well as the technical challenges of manufacturing using this 3D printing technology.

Traditional plastic 3D printers often have issues producing an output which looks exactly like the designed computer file, because variations in the plastic, air movement, print head temperature and even room humidity can make the plastic behave in unexpected ways.

Not only that, the shape of the structure may change as the hot plastic cools and contracts.

However, Relativity Space claims that their systems can use machine learning to predict what will happen once the liquid metal is printed, and change the design and head movements so that once the printing has cooled, it then has the desired shape.

This blew my mind.