3D Print For Extreme Temperatures (But Only If You’re NASA)

At the level pursued by many Hackaday readers, the advent of affordable 3D printing has revolutionised prototyping, as long as the resolution of a desktop printer is adequate and the part can be made in a thermoplastic or resin, it can be in your hands without too long a wait. The same has happened at a much higher level, but for those with extremely deep pockets it extends into exotic high-performance materials which owners of a desktop FDM machine can only dream of.

NASA for example are reporting their new 3D printable nickel-cobalt-chromium alloy that can produce extra-durable laser-sintered metal parts that van withstand up to 2000 Fahrenheit, or 1033 Celcius for non-Americans. This has obvious applications for an organisation producing spacecraft, so naturally they are excited about it.

The alloy receives some of its properties because of its oxide-dispersion-strengthened composition, in which grains of metal oxide are dispersed among its structure. We’re not metallurgists here at Hackaday, but we understand that the inconsistencies in the layers of metal atoms caused by the oxides in the crystal structure of the alloy leads to a higher energy required for the structure to shear.

While these particular materials might never be affordable for us mere mortals to play with, NASA’s did previously look into how it could greatly reduce the cost of high-temperature 3D printing by modifying an existing open source machine.

23 thoughts on “3D Print For Extreme Temperatures (But Only If You’re NASA)

  1. We went to moon using what’s pretty much a surplus WW2 tech (nazi V2 rocket engines). I find it amazing how today’s engineers are uncapable of doing anything without 3D-printing or AI-assisted IDE coding programs.

    1. Ummm. No.

      The Saturn V related was to the V2 about like a Maserati is related to horse pulled buggy.

      A whole lot of people worked really hard for the better part of two decades to build the Saturn rockets.

      Development on the F-1 engines used on the Saturn V rockets started in the 1950s. They had long since left the V2 designs behind at that point.

      One F1 engine on the Saturn V alone weighed 18000 pounds. The V2 weighed a total of 27600 pounds. The Saturn V first stage (the lowest one) had five F1 engines.

      The V2 burned an alcohol and water mixture with liquid oxygen. The F1 burned purified kerosene (RP-1) with liquid oxygen.

      Wernher von Braun developed the V2 before and during WWII. He was taken into the American missiles program after the war. Von Braun was transferred to NASA in 1958, just after NASA was formed.

      By that point, there were most certainly no “surplus V2 rocket engines” left. All the hardware used to send Americans to the moon was designed and built in the USA.

      Saturn V: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_V
      F1 engine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocketdyne_F-1
      Wernher von Braun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun

    2. Mostly 3D printing for space applications is because it gets you hundreds fewer parts and dramatically less manual work to do and then inspect to produce core rocket systems. It’s not exactly good engineering to spend more money to get something heavier and less consistent when you’ve got better available and reasonably proven; sure you _can_ direct a shop to braze a couple miles of joints by hand that have to be good or the rocket explodes to do it with WW2 tech, but… why?

    3. Who the heck said they aren’t capable? Does the development of new tech and methods imply that no one can do things the old way?

      I’m going to blow your mind here for a second, but it’s OK to find new (and maybe better) ways to do things. Why punch yourself in the dick when you can make a robot to do that for you?

      1. Precisely! There are sometimes better methods for the job too, sometimes it will be the ‘old’ way sometimes the newest methods and in the cases where lifespan is low, maintenance is likely nill, and lightness means more than anything else…

        Space is one of those spaces where directly printed very complex single part in the right materials are just going to perform so much better than you could get out of separate parts designed to be conventionally machined created into the assembly that does the same function. You can design to the tools and materials you have, but sometimes you do make your axe head from cast bronze or forged iron/steel not stone…

    4. Think of all the efficiency and power you are leaving on the table by using antiquated designs. Modern car engines can get so much more power and fuel efficiency from a 2 liter 4-banger than was possible on a 1960s 5.7+ liter V8 boat anchor without needing to put a massive forced induction system on it. And those boat anchors got gallons to the mile and were lucky to squirt out 150 HP when stock.

      3D printing and laser sintering allows you to create shapes that are impossible to machine or cast as a single part. Imagine boring a hole that looks like a crazy straw. Imagine that design did some magical tesla valve witchcraft that gave you 0.5% more efficiency with your engines. That’s more payload, more fuel saved for maneuvering, more speed. You can also algorithmically design parts to maintain their strength, but reduce weight, looking like metal interwoven organic latices. This is how technology advances. It’s more often a slow and steady march rather than exponential improvements.

    5. I wouldn’t take the “surplus” *literally* – but basically you are right. The underlying booster-technology was ultimately “only” upscaled by von Braun’s team. Even if the devil was of course in the details ;-)

      I find it absolutely amazing how the Apollo project could be completed in such a short time with the limited possibilities available at the time. Also absolutely amazing from a project management view, too. And the Saturn V had 100% reliability. No launch – test, unmanned, manned – went completely wrong.

      And yes, Elon and his Starship come to my mind right now, and NASA’s SLS. Two quite different approaches. 60 years after Apollo, with today’s possibilties in terms of technology and project management.

  2. ‘never be affordable for us mere mortals’ probably should read ‘won’t be readily available and affordable for us mere mortals for another 20 years’

    It wasn’t that long ago access to any form of CNC machine, even very primitive ones, is impossible for the mere mortals and even just a digital readout for quick accurate positioning on your manual machines is more of a semi-pro to industrial machine shop only…

  3. “…up to 2000 Fahrenheit, or 1033 Celcius for non-Americans.”

    Americans are not the only ones using imperial. Please give credit to the great people of Liberia and Myanmar.

    1. Americans use metric, at least should in serious science, according to themselves. Then convert to imperial just to F*** with you.Why? As I said, becouse f*** you, that’s why. Welcome to US.

      1. Yeah, pretty much. Ever read a product label here? We already did the conversion for you, it’s right there. So terribly sorry your superior mind is incapable of comprehending TWO systems of measurement.

      2. Americans literally use metric, but choose really weird units. Thomas Mendenhall, who was director of what became the bureau of standards for the US, decided in 1893 to stop using the british standard yard and pound and instead base US measurements on very specific fractions of the international meter and kilogram. Ever since then, the base measurements of all US weights and measures are metric.
        So our old joke about how people in the US always want to know how many football fields something is, is well-mirrored by the use of measurement standards that are just bastardized metric.

        1. Interestingly enough, “inch” was actually changed in the early 1930s in both the UK and the US to be the modern number of 25.4mm, because that’s what Carl Edvard Johansson’s gauge blocks called an “inch”. Of course, gauge blocks, lead screws, and the installed industrial base are what keep the inch relevant, as well, albeit less so now with CNC making it not as much of a pain to switch units.

          So yes, while it’s been _something_ metric since 1893, since 1933 it’s been the number picked by a Swede.

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