Launcher adds second Velo3D Sapphire metal AM machine

September 1, 2021

Launcher’s orbiter propellant tank additively manufactured in Inconel using the Velo3D Sapphire metal AM machine the company purchased in April 2021 (Courtesy Velo3D)

Velo3D, Inc, Campbell, California, USA, reports that Launcher, headquartered in Hawthorne, California, USA, a developer of high-performance rockets for small satellites, recently purchased a Velo3D Sapphire® Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) Additive Manufacturing machine. The new machine will be used to build titanium parts and is the second Sapphire metal AM machine that Launcher has purchased, having invested in one in April 2021 to produce Inconel parts.

Founded in 2017, Launcher is said to be an emerging-technology company dedicated to developing efficient rockets that can deliver small satellites to orbit. Their Launcher Light rocket aims to carry payloads of up to 150 kg to low-earth orbit using a single E-2 engine, with the first launch scheduled for 2024.

One of the company’s strategies is to use AM in as many rocket components as possible. While Launcher’s new advanced manufacturing facility in Los Angeles will include a wide variety of in-house capabilities, the company reportedly also plans to take advantage of Velo3D’s contract manufacturing partners like Stratasys Direct Manufacturing when scaling up production.

Following successful testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center of Launcher’s liquid oxygen (LOX) turbopump for its high-performance closed cycle liquid rocket engine, the company is now working with Velo3D to additively manufacture its fuel pump, flight turbine housing parts, and Orbiter pressure vessels—the latter to be manufactured with the second Sapphire AM machine.

“Velo3D really delivered on our turbopump, including its 3D-printed rotating impeller, all of which functioned perfectly the very first time at 30,000 rpm, using the first prototype,” stated Max Haot, founder & CEO of Launcher.

“Rocket engine turbopump parts typically require casting, forging, and welding,” he continued. “Tooling required for these processes increases the cost of development and reduces flexibility between design iterations. The ability to 3D print our turbopump—including rotating Inconel shrouded impellers, thanks to Velo3D’s zero-degree technology—makes it possible now at a lower cost and increased innovation through iteration between each prototype.”

Benny Buller, founder and CEO of Velo3D, commented, “We’re very excited about working with innovative companies like Launcher. Not only have they already proven out the value and experienced the quality of advanced metal AM through current projects, they understand the potential that this technology holds for expanding the success of their out-of-this-world enterprise.”

For more background on Launcher, read our ‘Metal Additive Manufacturing and the new Space Race: The inside track with Launcher and AMCM’ lead article in the Winter 2020 issue of Metal AM magazine.

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