The European Space Agency has successfully test-fired a 3D-printed platinum alloy thruster. The thruster combination chamber and nozzle were printed in layers using platinum-rhodium alloy, employing a laser printing machine normally used for creating jewelry.
The aim of putting together this thruster was to test out alternative manufacturing methods aimed at reducing material costs. Despite being unsure as to whether the manufacturing method would even work or whether the required metal powder would hold up, the scientists managed to create a viable thruster by employing layer-by-layer printing.
The development and succesful testing of this thruster goes to show that 3D-printing can indeed have viable applications in the aerospace industry. Moreover, this project also shows that costs can indeed by cut by streamlining production, whilst adding useful flexibility and diversity.
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