After receiving a truck full of giant boxes a few weeks ago, Orbex now operates the new custom M4K 3D printer of the AMCM Gmbh, which had been commissioned in February 2021. The machine, a modified version of the EOS M400 with a larger build volume, now prints large-scale unibody rocket engines and turbopumps in-house at Orbex.
Orbex has been manufacturing 3D printed rocket engines and turbopumps since 2018, gradually accumulating a wealth of knowledge and experience with technology, processes and production systems. This 3D printer, which has a very large z-axis, is one of the largest high-precision metal 3D printers available in Europe, and Orbex operates the only one in the European space sector (other systems of this type are in use. at Morf3D and Launcher in California), which enables the company to build what are arguably the largest unibody rocket engines in the world.
The very large print volume of the M4K allows us Orbex to print all of the main stage rocket engines and turbopumps in one run. This means there is no need to assemble smaller sections with welds, bolts or flanges, eliminating unreliable hot joints, avoiding outdated and error-prone additional processing steps, reducing mass and automating production.
The AMCM M4K offers a very fast and precise printing system, with a resolution of 40 microns, and the possibility of quickly changing material for different applications. To improve this, Orbex specified the four laser system, which further speeds up the printing process, allowing for rapid iteration of designs.
Indeed, Orbex can produce a complete rocket motor in a few days: the rocket motor comes out of the powder bed – complete, in one piece, without the need for welding or assembly of risky segments.
To get to the point where a new large rocket motor can be produced with the push of a button, Orbex has worked closely with AMCM for the past 2-3 years to develop a design and manufacturing process that ensures quality. and the symmetry of our rocket. motors, so that everyone now comes out of the printer perfectly formed.
Due to the scale and mass of the components produced by Orbex, this is a technically quite difficult process, and there are many innovative steps. The team also installed a new depolding plant to automate the way unsintered superalloy powders are removed from engine parts after production, using a large machine from Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH – the huge SFM -AT1000-S.
This machine further simplifies the engine production line by automating the removal of unused powder from inside finished chambers before they are passed on for non-destructive inspection and finishing.