Breakthrough in 3D Printing

Recently, according to Popular Mechanics, Lockheed Martin achieved a 3D printing breakthrough when it used the additive manufacturing technique to manufacture a four-foot diameter dome made from titanium. Two of the domes would be used to seal a fuel tank that will become a standard feature for the LM 2100 satellite bus.

The aerospace industry has increasingly turned to 3D printing to create all sorts of parts for engines, satellites, and space vehicles. However, previously, the biggest 3D-printed component was the size of a toaster. The creation of a large fuel tank dome or cap shows that Lockheed Martin has become increasingly confident that 3D printing is a way to reduce costs and cut the time needed to manufacture components.

The Benefits of 3D Printing

The company has discovered that using 3D printing to create the fuel tank dome has cut costs and reduced the time needed to make the part by half. Using conventional manufacturing techniques, some 80 percent of the material used went to waste.

Another reason that 3D printing is taking over the aerospace industry is that the technique can be used to create parts that are both lighter weight and of greater strength and resiliency. Both qualities are very important when creating things that get launched into space, subjected to all of the stresses of being sent into orbit around the Earth.

Lockheed Martin, an important contractor for both the military and NASA, has used its own resources to incorporate 3D manufacturing into what it does. The company has become aware that additive manufacturing technology is crucial if it is to remain competitive in the 21st century. The effort is already paying off. Delivery time for space technology has dropped from two years to three months. In short order, entire rockets, satellites, and spacecraft will be built solely using 3D printing.