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Europe’s largest industrial 3D printer will make rocket engines

Europe’s largest industrial 3D printer will produce rocket engines

Orbex selected AMCM to build the largest industrial 3D printer in Europe, so the UK-based innovative space company can quickly print complex rocket engines in-house.

With the bespoke high volume 3D printer, Orbex can print more than 35 large rocket engine and turbo pump systems for the main stage annually as the company expands its production capabilities for launches.

The multi-million pound deal was signed with AMCM after several months of successful attempts to print various large rocket components. AMCM will deliver a complete printing suite with post-processing machines and image processing systems that enable automatic image-based inspection of printed components. In order to do justice to the new machines, Orbex is expanding its factory area by a further 1,000 m².

The 3D printing system prints rocket parts using a special mix of metals, including titanium and aluminum, to create a lightweight system that can withstand the extreme temperature and pressure conditions of space travel. Orbex prints components such as rocket engines in one piece, eliminating the weaknesses that can arise from joining and welding.

The 3D-printed rocket components will be key parts of the Orbex launcher, a 19-meter microlauncher rocket designed to propel small satellites into polar orbits around the earth.

In August 2020, planning permission was granted for Orbex’s home port Space Hub Sutherland on the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland. The A’Mhoine site is currently the only UK spaceport to have received a building permit. The start of construction is expected in 2021. First orbital launch expected in 2022.

Prime runs on bio-propane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that reduces CO2 emissions by 90% compared to kerosene-based fuels. The Prime missile was designed to be reusable and incorporate a novel recovery and reusability system. The rocket was also designed not to leave debris in orbit around the earth.

“Although our rocket engines and other critical systems are pretty mature after years of testing, a large in-house 3D printing system like this one gives us far greater speed and flexibility as we ramp up production,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex. “This means that we can continue to iterate and increase performance. In the longer term, as we prepare for multiple product launches per year, we will have better control over our costs and our supply chain. After extensive tests, the results from AMCM were very successful and we are confident that we have made the right choice of partner. “

“Investing in a large 3D printing system like this says a lot about Orbex’s ambitions in the European space industry,” said Martin Bullemer, MD of AMCM. “To be a leader in the European market, they need the production reliability and speed that such a large-scale 3D printing system can offer them. And while this is an important purchase, it will allow Orbex significant cost control in the years to come. “

Michael Tyrrell

Digital coordinator


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