Skyrora, a UK-based rocket designer, manufacturer, and deployer, has developed Skyprint 2 – largest hybrid 3D printer in Europe of its kind, to improve the speed and efficiency of manufacturing rocket parts. Allowing printing and machining on the same bed reduces process complexity, cost, and printing time by around 30% compared to other printers.
Another significant advantage of Skyprint 2 is its ability to manufacture using subtractive or additive processes, allowing it to repair parts and machine items that were not originally printed.
Skyprint 2 – Largest Hybrid 3D Printer in Europe
Following in the footsteps of Skyprint 1, when production begins in Q2, the bespoke Skyprint 2 will provide a cost-effective, bi-metallic, hybrid manufacturing service to meet the growing demand for small satellite launches, allowing Skyrora to take complete control of the manufacturing process. Skyrora’s vision is to meet this growing demand by combining proven technology with cutting-edge innovation to provide affordable, responsive access to space.
Skyprint 2 will employ Inconel, a superalloy known for its mechanical strength at high temperatures that makes up the majority of the mass of Skyrora’s rocket engines and employs the Directed Energy Deposition (DED) process. This is an additive manufacturing process that uses focused thermal energy to fuse materials by melting them as they are deposited. Skyprint2’s ‘near net shape’ DED process, which minimizes material usage, is one of its key features. Any residual material that would otherwise be lost due to blowout is instead collected and recycled, allowing for greater material efficiency and more sustainable part manufacturing.
Standard, bulk methods of producing Inconel alloy engine parts (oxidation-corrosion-resistant materials well suited for extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat) can take up to 10 weeks from concept to production, not including quality modifications. Because of 3D printing’s direct forming capabilities, the time required to manufacture key rocket engine components has been significantly reduced to only two weeks using Skyprint 2. Skyprint 2 is radically altering what is possible in hybrid manufacturing services due to its increased design dexterity, which allows for greater changes in design between iterations.
“Skyprint 2 reinforces our ambitions to not only be the first company to launch from UK soil, but also to do so in the most sustainable way possible. By taking greater control of the design and manufacturing process of our parts using our custom-built industry-leading 3D printing technology, we are taking another crucial step closer to offering a significant space service from our own soil. Creating this cost- and time-effective solution encapsulates the innovation and talent that resides at the heart of the UK space industry. As an asset, Skyprint 2 is a real game-changer – it will transform Skyrora’s operations and expand the limits of what is possible when it comes to space engineering in general.”– Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora’s founder and CEO
16 Launches a year
Following Skyrora’s announcement in October 2021 of a multi-launch agreement with SaxaVord that will allow the company to complete 16 launches per year by 2030, Skyrora’s ability to fully design and print parts using Skyprint 2 will significantly reduce the timeframe required for Skyrora to manufacture its rockets beginning in 2022.
Skyrora also successfully completed trials of the Skyrora XL rocket’s third stage, including its orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) – a vehicle that, once in orbit, can refire its engines around 15 times to complete tasks like acting as a space tug or performing maintenance and de-orbiting of defunct satellites. The development of Ecosene, a rocket fuel made from otherwise unused plastics, exemplifies the sustainable innovations at the heart of Skyrora’s business as it strives to solve the most pressing issues confronting the space industry.
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