“I THINK IT IS A DREAM OF EVERY ENGINEER TO BUILD A ROCKET AND I FEEL HONORED TO BE A PART OF THIS PROJECT WITH SLM SOLUTIONS AND ORBEX.”

Lukas Pankiewicz, Applications Specialist at SLM Solutions

Success with Selective Laser Melting:

Orbex, UK-based spaceflight company, introduced the world’s largest metal rocket engine 3D printed in a single piece. Founded in 2015, the UK-based spaceflight company develops small satellite launch vehicles and introduced Prime, their revolutionary and environmentally-friendly rocket.

The novel Orbex launcher not only uses 100% renewable fuel to cut carbon emissions by 90% and a novel zero-shock staging and payload separation resulting in zero orbital debris, but was also design-optimized for selective laser melting, helping to create a structure 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other launch vehicle in its category. The innovative, regenerative engine was printed on the SLM®800 large-format metal additive manufacturing system.

 

SLM Solutions' Partnership for Process Development:

  • Working closely with the design team at Orbex, the application engineers of SLM Solutions consulted on the various design features and orientation options, while ensuring the part built successfully with the required material properties and dimensional accuracy. 
  • The objective during the process was to fulfill the quality expectations of the Orbex team, keep the functionality of the part and make it suitable for additive manufacturing. Every single support structure used in data preparation was customized to obtain the best quality in every section of the engine, also taking post-processing into consideration.
  • The SLM®800 metal additive manufacturing system features a 280x500mm powder bed that can build parts 850mm tall, allowing the Prime engine to be built in a special nickel alloy in a single piece. The SLM®HUB unpacking system integrates contactless powder handling and automated build chamber conveyors to transfer the finished part to an unpacking station designed to remove powder through vibration and rotation. The SLM Solutions engineering team ensured a powder removal strategy was incorporated into the build with purpose driven delivery channels to be certain as much powder was removed from the part as possible while reducing material loss.

  • After production, reference samples built with the engine were analyzed in the SLM Solutions’ metallography lab, where porosity level and distribution were proven to meet the quality acceptance criteria.

The rapid iteration times inherent to the SLM® process allowed Orbex to realize both time and cost reductions – saving 90% in turnaround time and over 50% in costs compared to traditional CNC machining production.


SLM Solutions specializes in consulting and process development together with customers to offer full process-chain support. Read more success stories in our metal AM resource center.

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