Linde and Ariane Group to optimise copper Additive Manufacturing for future rocket engines

November 3, 2023

A computer-generated image of the additively manufactured copper combustion chamber, produced in collaboration with Ariane (Courtesy Linde)
A computer-generated image of the additively manufactured copper combustion chamber, produced in collaboration with Ariane (Courtesy Linde)

Linde plc, a global industrial gases and engineering company, has announced its collaboration with Ariane Group to focus on research aimed at improving the Additive Manufacturing process for copper alloy parts intended for use in the engine combustion chambers of future heavy-lift rockets.

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Additive Manufacturing allows for the use of copper in the production of engine components with specialised geometries, such as cooling channels, which are unachievable with traditional manufacturing methods. However, while copper is a superior heat conductor and is vital for the aerospace industry, its refractory nature raises challenges in the Additive Manufacturing process. In Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) Additive Manufacturing, copper reflects the laser and thereby requires a higher laser intensity, which can risk overheating the component and cause oxidation issues.

To overcome these issues, the partners are using Linde’s custom gas mixture, ADDvance Laser230, and oxygen control system, ADDvance O2 precision, along with a highly precise Additive Manufacturing process, to deliver consistent, high-quality, copper AM components.

“Linde is very proud to be collaborating with Ariane on this project to improve the Additive Manufacturing process,” stated Pierre Forêt, Associate Director, Additive Manufacturing, Linde. “Cooperating with world-leading partners like Ariane is at the core of our innovation culture.”

ADDvance Laser230 is specifically designed to optimise manufacturing results in the PBF-LB processes. Its blend of argon and helium reduces fumes and spatter formation, speeds up cycle times, and makes the manufacturing process more reliable, thus reducing the cost per part. It is reported to work with any alloy and is well suited for the creation of complex or lattice-type structures through Additive Manufacturing.

Incorporating ADDvance O2 precision into the manufacturing process ensures that the build chamber maintains a maximum oxygen level as low as 10 ppm. This significantly low residual oxygen level mitigates overheating and oxidation, leading to more efficient building without the necessity for layers to cool down. Moreover, it enables the reuse of non-oxidised powder, which subsequently reduces material costs.

“To ensure the competitiveness of future launcher engines, improved Additive Manufacturing processes are a key factor, enabling reduced manufacturing costs and improved lead times while maintaining the non-negotiable quality and reliability that has made Ariane an industry leader,” Mathias Palm, Process Specialist, Ariane Group, shared. “We are confident that Linde’s gas expertise will contribute to optimising the Additive Manufacturing process.”

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