Rocket developer adds second Sapphire 3D printing system

Sept. 13, 2021
Launcher purchased a Velo3D metal additive manufacturing solution to laser-print Inconel parts in April 2021 and has recently added a second one that prints titanium.

Velo3D (Campbell, CA), which specializes in additive manufacturing for high-value metal parts, and Launcher (Los Angeles, CA), which develops high-performance rockets for small satellites, is proving out the value of laser-based 3D printing for delivering satellites to orbit cost-effectively and with destination-orbit flexibility. Launcher purchased a Velo3D metal additive manufacturing solution to laser-print Inconel parts in April 2021 and has recently added a second one that prints titanium.

Launcher is now working with Velo3D to 3D-print its fuel pump, flight turbine housing parts, and Orbiter pressure vessels for its high-performance, closed-cycle liquid rocket engine. The pressure vessels will be manufactured with the second Velo3D Sapphire metal additive manufacturing system.

Rocket engine turbopump parts typically require casting, forging, and welding. The tooling required for these processes increases the cost of development and reduces flexibility between design iterations. 3D printing the turbo pump, including rotating Inconel shrouded impellers, lowers the cost and increases innovation through iteration between each prototype.

Launcher’s strategy is to use additive manufacturing in as many rocket components as possible. The company will also take advantage of Velo3D’s contract manufacturing partners like Stratasys Direct Manufacturing when scaling up production.

Source: Velo3D press release

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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