Ankit Aerospace, an Indian aerospace component manufacturer based in Bengaluru, is using Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology to 3D print grid fins for Gaganyaan mission. The Gaganyaan mission is India’s first human space mission, and it is scheduled to launch in 2024.
The company will 3D print grid-fins from titanium material, which are critical to a spacecraft’s safety parameters. At the Aero India Show 2023, the grid fins were on display.
Ankit Aerospace to 3D Print Grid Fins for Gaganyaan Mission
Ankit Aerospace revealed at the Aero India Show 2023 that its 3D printed parts will be used to keep astronauts safe in the event of a spacecraft launch failure. The Ankit Aerospace team revealed that it has been reducing the use of titanium while increasing the production of additives for the mission.
“In the past, traditionally, it used to begin with a big block of metal and one would carve out everything, including what was not needed — just how a sculpture is carved out of a whole stone. On the other hand, when you talk about 3D-printing or additives, you only start with the amount of material you need and you deposit in the shape you require, that’s what we did on a large scale.”– Ankit Patel, CEO, Ankit Aerospace
In the event of an aborted launch or mission failure, the first priority would be to save the astronauts’ lives using the launch pad. Following that, the priority would be to immediately separate the crew module from the rest of the spacecraft. That is when the grid can be activated. The 3D printed grid fin will almost certainly be tested.
They are likely to produce more grid fins for India’s mission if they are approved by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Ankit added, “With the support of ISRO, we took up the challenge of developing a new technology to be able to make large-scale additive manufacturing for their human space programme. This was about four years ago, where they gave out a problem statement and wanted some companies to work on it at a large scale, and we took up the challenge. That’s how our journey started for us.”
The goal remains to leverage this technology for other projects in the country, and as additive becomes more mainstream, opportunities for large structures within the country will open up.
Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) Technology
EBAM technology can print large structures using additives, which was previously done by dividing the structure into three pieces and wielding it together. A finished shape, close to the finished size, can now be manufactured in one shot using titanium wire.
Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology is used to create the large grid fins. A large vacuum chamber is used for 3D printing titanium alloy components. The feedstock or input material is a titanium alloy wire, which is melted and deposited layer by layer until the entire part is built on a substrate plate of the same material.
According to an ISRO scientist, “The grid fins are essential to stabilise the crew module in case of an emergency on the launch pad or in the initial stage of flight and rescue the crew.”
He continued, “The 3D printed grid fins would significantly bring down the buy to fly ratio from 21 in case of conventional forged and machined blocks to 4 in case of 3D printing or additive manufacturing. It also gives the flexibility of reducing the part count which includes the brackets and fasteners in case of conventional route to a single part.”
The resulting grid fin is a nearly net-shaped component that requires very little material removal to be ready for use.
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