Rocket Lab adopts a new electric propulsion cycle and produces the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components.
Typically, the cost associated with launching a lightweight rocket into orbit can easily run upwards of $100 million. In an effort to curb the astronomical expense of space travel, Los Angeles-based startup Rocket Lab is redefining the way rocket engines are manufactured and how they function.
The Lockheed Martin-backed company recently unveiled its latest creation, dubbed Rutherford, which is said to be the first-ever battery-powered rocket engine. The design, which is comprised almost entirely out of 3D-printed parts and powered by batteries rather than liquid fuel, will be used on Rocket Lab’s Electron orbital launch vehicle later this year.
Powered by the brand new Rutherford motor, Electron will be able to deliver small satellites to commercial orbits at a much lower price and a greater frequency. The flagship engine adopts a new electric propulsion cycle that employs electric motors to drive its turbopumps, and is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components like its chamber, injector, pumps and main propellant valves.
Compared to the weeks typically associated with more conventional methods, it will only take three days to print the components of the engine out of titanium and other alloys through an advanced form of 3D printing called “electron beam melting.” This also allows for lighter rockets that can be manufactured faster, all while requiring customers to shell out less money per launch. In fact, the company is hoping to begin launching satellites sometime next year, and eventually aims to launch at least one satellite a week, with aspirations of providing at least 100 per year. The startup says its launch cost for the 65’ x 3’ system will be around $4.9 million and will be able to carry small payloads of up to 220 pounds into space.
Intrigued by this out of this world project? Head over to its official page here.
Maker 3D prints a fully-functional 5-speed transmission for a Toyota 22RE engine.
You may recall a project from back in January when auto enthusiast Eric Harrell replicated a Toyota 22RE four-cylinder engine using a RepRap Prusa 3D printer. Not only did it aesthetically fit the bill, it was completely functional as well. Following such positive feedback from the DIY community and media coverage around his earlier design, Harrell decided to complement his creation by 3D printing a 5-speed manual transmission modeled after a W56 Toyota. Combined, the two components form an impressive piece of DIY machinery!
“This is the 4WD version of the transmission so it has a mounting surface to bolt a transfer case to. I’ll work to get a 2WD housing designed up, since the only difference is the rear section of the transmission. The transfer case will be the next thing I will upload,” the Maker writes.
The build took Harrell just over two days to finish, which was accomplished using his ATmega2560 powered Kossel Mini printer. Upon completion, the transmission worked — all 5 speeds and reverse. The project utilized a decent amount of 3mm rod and 623zz bearings, along with some screws and nuts given the tiny size of a few of the parts.
Interested? You can check out the entire project on Thingiverse here. Meanwhile, watch it in action below!
Maker builds a moving four-cylinder engine with a RepRap 3D printer.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen the emergence of 3D-printed vehicles. Most recently, Local Motors demonstrated the future of car manufacturing by printing the main structure of an entire car right on the floor of the 2015 North American International Auto Show. The company extrudes just about everything that it can, both exterior and interior, before plugging in the wiring, suspension and engine. However, that begs the question, how close are we to the day of a 3D-printed motor?
Well, engineer and auto enthusiast Eric Harrell decided to design and replicate a Toyota 22RE four-cylinder engine using a RepRap Prusa 3D printer. In total, the entire build consisted of 80 separate parts and required just about three days to finish. While it may be a bit longer than your typical DIY project, keep in mind that the end result is a fully rotating engine with a working crank, pistons, and valve train — with valves that open and close. Other than some bearings and fasteners, Harrell notes that all the components were 3D-printed.
“It may not be the most exciting engine, but its the only one I had in my garage. Great if you want to learn about engines and how the moving parts in them work. All parts are printed except for a few bearings and fasteners,” Harrell explains.
Intrigued? You can learn all about the project on its Thingiverse page here, and watch the Maker elaborate upon his build below.