A new milestone in the 3D printing world has been reached, this time by by Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE:AJRD). The company announced on Monday (April 3) its successful testing of a full-scale manufactured thrust chamber assembly for the RL10 rocket engine.
According to a press release, the RL10 rocket engine was built from a copper alloy that used selective laser melting technology–otherwise known as 3-D printing. The announcement also notes Aerojet has been trying for a over a decade to include 3D printing into the RL10 to make them more affordable.
“Aerojet Rocketdyne has made several major upgrades to the RL10 to enhance the engine’s performance and affordability since it first entered service in the early 1960s,” Eileen Drake, CEO and president of the company said in the release. “Incorporating additive manufacturing into the RL10 is the next logical step as we look to make the engine even more affordable for our customers.”
Jeff Haynes, additive manufacturing program manager echoed similar sentiments.
“We believe this is the largest copper-alloy thrust chamber ever built with 3-D printing and successfully tested,” he said. “Producing aerospace-quality components with additive manufacturing is challenging. Producing them with a high-thermal-conductivity copper alloy using SLM technology is even more difficult. Infusing this technology into full-scale rocket engines is truly transformative as it opens up new design possibilities for our engineers and paves the way for a new generation of low-cost rocket engines.”
That said, the RL10 isn’t the only product Aeroject Rocketdyne is using 3D printing technology towards: the company will also use it for the RS-25 engines to help explore the deep space and its AR1 booster engine currently being developed to replace Russian-built RD-180 engines.
Moving forward, Christine Cooley, director of the RL10 program, said the testing is a big step for the company, and for the RL10 engines in particular.
“With the next generation of RL10 engines, we aim to maintain the reliability and performance that our customers have come to expect, while at the same time making the engine more affordable to meet the demands of today’s marketplace,” she said.
Despite the news, shares of Aerojet didn’t respond well on Monday. At the close, shares of Aerojet dropped 2.53 percent to end the day at $21.15. Year-to-date, however, shares of the company have increased 17.83 percent.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.