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RedEye and Lockheed Martin Build One of Largest 3D Printed Parts for Space Project
Machining the large 3D printed tank
Business Wire photo
MINNEAPOLIS—RedEye, an additive manufacturing service bureau (now Stratasys Direct Manufacturing), recently partnered with Lockheed Martin's Space Systems Company (SSC) to 3D print two large fuel tank simulators for a satellite form, fit, and function validation test and process development. With the biggest tank measuring 15 feet long, the project marks one of the largest 3D printed parts RedEye has ever built.
Using Stratasys Direct Manufacturing's Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology, the team developed the fuel tanks within a highly condensed time frame and at about half the cost of machining the parts. These rapid prototyping advantages will help Lockheed Martin bring its new design to market faster in a competitive contract bid process, according to representatives.
"With Stratasys Direct Manufacturing's machine capacity and engineering support, we were able to successfully build these tank simulators in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost," said Andrew Bushell, senior manufacturing engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, in a press release.
The larger tank was built in 10 different pieces; the smaller, in six different pieces using polycarbonate (PC) material. Combined, the fuel tanks took nearly two weeks to print, taking roughly 150 hours per section. Based on the sheer size of the parts, customized fixtures were required to support the structures as they were bonded together and shipped to be machined to meet specifications. Once all of the pieces were machined, the final assembly required 240 hours.
Finished tank simulations
Business Wire photo
"This project is unique in two ways—it marks the first aerospace fuel tank simulation produced through additive manufacturing and is one of the largest 3D printed parts ever built," said Joel Smith, strategic account manager for aerospace and defense at RedEye, in a statement. "Our ability to accommodate such a large configuration and adapt to design challenges on the fly demonstrates that there really is no limit to the problem solving potential when you manufacture with 3D printing."
Lockheed Martin first embraced the design benefits of additive manufacturing with RedEye in 2012 and has invested in in-house 3D printers from RedEye's parent company, Stratasys. RedEye has worked with Lockheed Martin on various tooling and additive manufacturing projects that support its Space Systems Company. The organizations are expected to partner on more 3D printing projects later this year.
Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (www.stratasysdirect.com) is a provider of rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing services. The company leverages Stratasys' patented FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technologies to assist companies in all phases of product development from conceptual modeling to the production of end-use parts.
Stratasys Direct Manufacturing is a global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing products and services. The company's patented FDM® and PolyJetTM 3D Printing technologies produce prototypes and manufactured goods directly from 3D CAD files or other 3D content.
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