AMCM developing new 8-laser M 8K metal 3D printer for space rocket production

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AMCM, a Germany-based partner company of 3D printer manufacturer EOS, has announced the development of its newest metal Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) 3D printer, the AMCM M 8K.

Building on the company’s existing AMCM M 4K system, AMCM’s new 3D printer will incorporate 8 1kW lasers and a substantial build volume of 800 x 800 x 1200 mm.  

The development of the M 8K is being aided by a national grant to support aerospace firm ArianeGroup’s Ariane 6 program. This project is being conducted on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

The first application of the M 8K will be to manufacture combustion chambers used in ArianeGroup’s Prometheus rocket engine. 3D printed in CuCr1Zr, these components measure over 1,000 mm in height and possess a maximum diameter of 800 mm. 

According to Martin Bullemer, Managing Director at AMCM, the new M 8K System will be operational within a year. The first 3D printed combustion chambers are set to be delivered to ArianeGroup by the end of 2024. 

“We needed to find a partner who was willing to work with us to push the boundaries of what’s possible. This is literally AMCM’s DNA, who have already built an excellent reputation having multiple M 4K systems in this industry,” commented Jan Alting, Head of Future Propulsion of ArianeGroup. 

“ArianeGroup projects must meet ESA’s strict requirements to be approved for launch. As a result, we place the greatest value on part quality, e.g., material microstructure and surface roughness,” explained Alting. “We are confident that we will be able to solve this challenge in a short period of time and help the company enter new markets. Promoting cutting-edge technological innovation is an integral part of our mission.”  

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“The excellent laser, scanner and optics design with our tried-and-tested beam sources is based on decades of process expertise from EOS,” added Bullemer.  

Combustion chambers from ArianeGroup. Photo via AMCM.
Combustion chambers from ArianeGroup. Photo via AMCM.

AMCM’s new M 8K PBF-LB 3D printer 

According to Bullemer, AMCM faced a range of size-related challenges when designing the M 8K. “The build volume is 4 times that of the M 4K, which also means mass. Therefore, the z-axis of the system must be able to move up to 5 tons of powder with the highest precision,” explained Bullemer.    

Bullemer also highlighted the importance of material supply when it comes to the new 3D printer. “For printing up to 1.2 m tall parts with high productivity and quality, powder management is key. Reliably feeding tons of metal powder over several days is no walk in the park. You do not want to interrupt the process in any case.” 

AMCM has also announced that it will integrate EOS’s SmartFusion and EOSTATE Exposure OT (optical tomography) systems into the M 8K. 

According to AMCM, this integration will improve in-process quality assurance and process monitoring, reducing subsequent testing efforts. Indeed, the company claims that process control and validation are both particularly important, given the M 8K’s longer 3D print runs and larger part capabilities. 

ArianeGroup hot fire testing 3D printed combustion chambers. Photo via AMCM.
ArianeGroup hot fire testing 3D printed combustion chambers. Photo via AMCM.

3D printing space-ready parts 

Leveraging additive manufacturing to produce key components for space rocket engines is nothing new. Last month, it was announced that aerospace propulsion system developer Agile Space Industries is pursuing certification of Ni625 powder from industrial 3D printing materials manufacturer 6K Additive. 

Agile is aiming to use this material for 3D printed space rocket components, including the company’s A2200 bipropellant hypergolic engine. These engines will be used on a lunar lander for a mission to the moon.   

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Similarly, Edinburgh-based private rocket manufacturer Skyrora recently began full-duration testing to qualify the updated design of its 3D printed 70kN rocket engine. Manufactured using the company’s Skyprint 2 3D printers, the new engine design features an improved cooling chamber to optimize cooling efficiency and extend the engines’ life cycle. 

Elsewhere, Italian 3D printing service bureau BEAMIT SpA announced that it is providing 3D printed aerospace parts for the Cygnus program. 3D printed out of NASA-qualified AlSi7Mg aluminum using PBF-LB, the parts are NADCAP certified. 

The Cygnus program is aimed at resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) and advancing space exploration using Cygnus spacecraft manufactured by Northrop Grumman.      

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Featured image shows ArianeGroup hot fire testing 3D printed combustion chambers. Photo via AMCM.


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