“Three to four years ago, none of my peers believed we would see additive manufacturing of safety-critical parts,” the FAA’s chief scientific and technical adviser for fatigue and damage tolerance said Oct. 19 at the Additive Aerospace conference in Los Angeles.
Lockheed says the technology has cut down on production time by two-thirds, while Aerojet is already testing a 3-D printed thrust chamber.
Satellite manufacturers are turning increasingly to additive manufacturing to reduce the cost and time required to design and build spacecraft.
Within five years, companies could begin in-orbit manufacturing and assembly of communications satellite reflectors or other large structures, according to Made in Space, the Silicon Valley startup that sent the first 3D printer to the International Space Station in 2014.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems could eventually replace satellite propellant tanks now built by longtime partner Orbital ATK with 3-D-printed tanks Lockheed would build in-house.