We expect 2022 to be an eventful year in the Chinese space sector. At least 95,000 space-related businesses are booming; space tourism operators plan to take off for the first time in 2025, and startups are attracting a lot of funding thanks to their strong growth, including Deep Blue Aerospace. Focused on reusable rocket R&D, Deep Blue has already secured millions in funding and is using that money to speed up the manufacturing process for its rocket and engines. Boasting at least three 3D printing partners, the company has embraced additive design thinking since its founding in 2016 and even plans to build an AM smart manufacturing base in Nantong by 2024.
Deep Blue Races SpaceX with metal 3D printing
Usually comparing its R&D approach to SpaceX, Deep Blue has refined its focus on 3D printing, and that includes investing in Farsoon Technologies’ FS621M large-format metal system in 2022 to explore innovative manufacturing solutions for rocket engines. . The commercial rocket maker continued to produce rocket engine parts using Farsoon’s metal 3D printing technology.
This year, Deep Blue enhanced its batch production of large one-piece rocket engine combustors using Farsoon’s FS621M system. The company revealed that its additively manufactured Inconel combustor measures 780mm (30.7in) in height and 550mm (21.7in) in diameter. While the space company outlined a few challenges such as build size, function integration and detail resolution, the advanced additive manufacturing process has enabled many innovations including consolidated design, lightweight lattice structures and self-supporting geometries. Additionally, other features of the rocket engine, such as complex geometries with hundreds of ribs and internal cooling channels, were designed to aid the combustion efficiency of the rocket engine.
Commenting on his latest 3D printing achievement, Deep Blue Aerospace AM Manager Tian Cailan said that as an essential component of the rocket engine, the combustion chamber must achieve the performance, efficiency and reliability required under extreme operating conditions of heat and pressure.
“We are fully convinced of the high quality, fast production speed and operational stability provided by Farsoon’s FS621M system. We are able to offer products that are significantly lighter, more repeatable, while demonstrating much better properties in functional testing, which is essential to meet the demanding standards of the aerospace industry,” Cailan emphasized.
As one of the first commercial rocket manufacturers in China to use industrial metal 3D printing for key component engineering, Deep Blue is able to build parts at only a fraction of the cost compared to traditional technologies. In fact, at least 85% of the brand’s rocket engine components are built using metal 3D printing, which may increase in the future.
“Farsoon’s FS621M gives us the ability to quickly manufacture large engine parts with a lightweight design, structural integration, improved performance and reliability; with only a fraction of the cost, labor and time compared to traditional technologies,” Cailan detailed.
The booming NewSpace 3D printing scene in China
Considered one of the most recognized Chinese powder bed fusion companies, Farsoon has been operating in China since 2009 before gaining recognition in Europe and America. Its FS621M was designed to enable cost-effective production of oversized aerospace parts with an 80% faster design-to-validation cycle compared to conventional manufacturing processes.
Deep Blue Aerospace’s rocket engine manufacturing technology is also unique in China. Its Thunder engine series – which includes the Thunder R1 and R2 – is the first liquid oxygen kerosene engine manufactured by 3D printing processes nationwide. At the end of June 2022, the ignition test of the Thunder-R1 20 ton thrust liquid oxygen kerosene rocket engine, designed to provide high performance while being economical for low-volume production rockets, was completed.
Rocket engines are just the tip of the iceberg for Deep Blue. The company has also developed its medium-class orbital launch vehicle, known as Nebula-1, which will be powered by the Thunder engine and complete its first orbital launch-recovery mission in late 2024.
In the immediate future, Deep Blue will continue vertical take-off and landing (VTVL), launching high altitude tests – which will follow a successful 100 meter VTVL jump last October.
The company is confident that the combination of its rocket engine designs with Farsoon’s expertise will continue to push the boundaries of metal powder bed fusion technology for large-scale engine part production.
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