Amaero Engineering in collaboration with a team of Monash engineering PhD students have designed, manufactured and test-fired a rocket engine.
Having successfully manufactured the world’s first additively manufactured jet engine Amaero approached the team with a challenge to design an engine that would fully utilise the near limitless geometric complexity of AM. â€śWe were able to focus on the features that boost the engineâ€™s performance, including the nozzle geometry and the embedded cooling network. These are normally balanced against the need to consider how on earth someone is going to manufacture such a complex piece of equipment. Not so with additive manufacturingâ€ť says Graham Bell, the project lead.
The unique aerospike design offers some unique advantages over its more conventional counterparts. â€śTraditional bell-shaped rockets, as seen on the Space Shuttle, work at peak efficiency at ground level. As they climb the flame spreads out reducing thrust. The aerospike design maintains its efficiency but is very hard to build using traditional technology,â€ť says Marten Jurg, an engineer with Amaero. â€śUsing additive manufacturing we can create complex designs, print them, test them, tweak them, and reprint them in days instead of monthsâ€ť.
Some additional facts about the engine:
- The engine is a complex multi-chamber aerospike design
- Additively manufactured with selective laser melting on an EOS M280
- Built from Hasteloy X; a high strength nickel based superalloy
- Fuel: compressed natural gas (methane); oxidiser: compressed oxygen
- Design thrust of 4kN or about 1,000 pounds. This is enough to hover the equivalent of five people (around 400 kg)
The video below discusses the design and manufacturing in more detail as well as showing some of the successful test firings that have recently been completed. We hope you enjoy it.
The development of the aerospike rocket was supported by Monash University, Amaero Engineering, and Woodside Energy through the Woodside Innovation Centre at Monash. The Monash engineers have now created a company, NextAero, to take their concepts to the global aerospace industry, starting with the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide on 25-29 September.
3D printing is set to spark a global revolution in manufacturing and Australian company Amaero Engineering is leading the way – Ruby Lohman, Australia Unlimited.
Amaero has been featured in an article published by Austrade. The article summarises the creation of Amaero as a spin-off from the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing and goes on to describe it’s success in manufacturing aerospace components.
Through our partnership with MCAM, weâ€™re right up there in terms of global technology leadership,â€ť says Amaeroâ€™s Chief Executive Officer Barrie Finnin.Â â€śYou can 3D print parts that you canâ€™t make any other way, the advantages of those parts could be things like reduced mass or better heat exchange. For certain applications in the aerospace industry thatâ€™s very attractive. Those are the kind of performance benefits the industry is prepared to pay a premium for.â€ť
Whilst it is understood that conventional manufacturing methods will continue to dominate, the rise of additive manufacturing is changing the way engineers design things. Complex internal structures that were previously impossible to create are now achievable through 3D printing. Â As a result there are a growing number businesses establishing themselves in the additive manufacturing industry however many of them lack the knowledge required to use the machines. Finnin says that even the companies that make 3D printing machines are not experts on how to effectively use them.
â€śWe work with selective laser melting or powder-bed processes but also use direct laser deposition type processes as well,â€ť says Finnin. â€śThose technologies are tricky. You canâ€™t just buy a machine off the shelf, use the parameters that the machine supplier has given you and expect to go into production. It wonâ€™t work.â€ť
Amaero uses five different metal 3D printing machines including the Concept Laser XLine 2000R, the world’s largest metal melting machine. The company is currently one of two employing this level of technology here in Australia and there are very few local experts. To address this Amaero offers paid internships, taking inexperienced engineers and training them to join their world-leading team of experts.
The full article is available here.
Monash University Amaero Engineering are have invested in the Xline 2000R from Concept Laser. With a build volume of 800 x 400 x 500 mmÂł this is the largest metal 3D printer in the world thus far. The Xline 200R is one of five that have been manufactured to date and is the only unit outside of America and Europe.
â€śThe new printer allows us to make large complex shapes and unique tools quicker, lighter and with less wasteâ€ť –Â Professor Xinhua Wu, who leads the Monash University 3D printing initiative has stated
The enormous printer has been put to work already, producing the largest metal aerospace component made with a powder bed 3D printer in the world. The aircraft hinge (pictured below) is from a Chinese jet airliner and measures 40 x 80 x 39 cm and weighs 11 kg.
Amaero CEO Barrie Finnin has said â€śThis new printer creates promising opportunities for advanced manufacturing in Australia for global markets… …Last year, we printed production components that are now flying in passenger jets and small turbojet engines. Our technology is also now operating in our manufacturing facility in Toulouse with our partner Safranâ€”the French-based global aerospace and defence company.
â€śNow we can literally go bigger. This new capability will be of great interest to our aerospace and automotive customers in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.â€ť
Amaero is proud to announce a strategic partnership with French aerospace company Safran Power Units for the printing of aerospace components.
Manufacturing capacity will be set up in Toulouse with Amaero providing EOS SLM 3D printing capability and their additive manufacturing expertise. Together with Monash University, Amaero has modified the printers enabling them to meet the stringent material and product specifications required by Safran Power Units for engine parts.
Safran Power Units will design the components and Amaero will manufacture them. The parts will then be delivered back to Safran who will post-process, machine and assemble them into gas turbines. This partnership comes after a successful demonstration of Amaero’s manufacturing capabilities where together with several partners they reproduced aÂ Safran Power Units gas turbine jet engine from a Falcon 20 executive jet using metal 3D printing. This project validated that Amaero was capable of meeting the tough requirements of critical components such as the combustion chamber and nozzle.
Professor Ian Smith of Monash University saidÂ “I am delighted that Monash is contributing to global innovation and attracting business investment with our world-class research. The Amaero-Safran collaboration is a fabulous example of how universities and industry can link together to translateÂ research into real commercial outcomes.”
Safran Power Units CEO, FranĂ§ois Tarel, declared “We are committed to add tangible value to our products for the benefit of our customers. The stakes are high: weight reduction, huge production cycles shortening and designs innovation.Â Safran Group advances and our partner leading-edge expertise allow us to stay ahead and to supply the most sophisticated components. This is not just a matter of 3D printing, the 3P rule applies: setting the right parameter for the right part and the right expected performance.”
You can read more about the strategic partnership in Safrans’ press release here.