NASA's latest rocket test normally wouldn't be big news, except for how a portion of that rocket came to be.
Ryan Whitwham of Geek.com captured the idea in just a headline: "NASA's 3D Printed Rocket Engine Did Not Blow Up."
The procedure employed to produce this engine is known as selective laser melting manufacturing. Whereas normal 3D printers melt and extrude plastics (usually ABS), selective laser melting uses a high-powered laser to melt and fuse metallic powders into the desired 3D structure.
Anyone who's followed the 3D printing exploits of Cody Wilson and his 3D-printed weapons company Defense Distributed knows that production of parts that handle the stresses of heat and pressure has been incredibly difficult. Not only has NASA taken a big step in the process of 3D printing metallic objects, but they've all but made certain the coming manufacturing revolution in America, and likely the world.
The part the space agency produced — a fuel injector — usually takes a year to build. Now, NASA claims they built this iteration in about 4 months, at a mere fraction of the cost.
And NASA isn't the only one who recognizes the benefits, the Department of Defense is in the mix as well.
The military is fielding mobile fabrication labs featuring 3D printers capable of customizing equipment, and Obama is dumping billions into 3D printing investment to back such initiatives.
There's even been talk of 3D printing human tissue — unproven, but if anything, NASA's bold test bolsters such thoughts.
The implications reach even into the relations of the world's super powers.
Last year, Boston Consulting Group predicted "that as much as 30% of America's exports from China could be domestically produced by 2020," Jon Koten of the Wall Street Journal reports.
Indeed, NASA's rocket test was not a step, but a giant leap for the future of 3D printing.
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