The National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) at Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University, Alabama, USA, has been awarded a $5.2 million contract by NASA to develop Additive Manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The three-year contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, which focuses on evolving light-weight, large-scale novel and Additive Manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.
Auburn University and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that created using AM, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the AM industry. The centre will now support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialised manufacturing technology vendors to be utilised by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies.
The announcement was made at the biannual four-day meeting of ASTM International’s Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies (F42), hosted by Auburn University at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National in Opelika, Alabama.
Speaking at the event, Christopher B Roberts, Dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, stated, “For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals. This new collaboration between NASA and our Additive Manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”
“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” added Paul McConnaughey, Deputy Director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”
Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME Director. Serving as Project Manager will be Mike Ogles, Director of NASA Programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for Additive Manufacturing,” Ogles commented. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”
NCAME currently collaborates with over seventy industry, government, academic and non-profit organisations, conducts research in fundamental and applied areas of immediate importance to industry and standardisation communities, and aims to properly educate the next wave of AM specialists, technicians, end-users and researchers. In 2018, it became a founding partner of the ASTM International Center of Excellence on Additive Manufacturing.