NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama is using selective laser melting (SLM) to create intricate metal parts for the next heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).SLM is similar to 3D printing, and is the future of manufacturing. The machine takes metal powder and uses a highenergy laser to melt it in a designed pattern. The laser will layer the melted dust to fuse whatever part is needed from the ground up, creating intricate designs. The process produces parts with complex geometries and precise mechanical properties from a 3D computer-aided design. Some of the “printed” engine parts will be structurally tested and used in hot-fire tests of a J-2X engine, which will be used as the upper stage engine for the SLS.
Visit www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/selective_melting.html for more information. Watch a video of the SLM machine in action on Tech Briefs TV at www.techbriefs. com/tv/SLM.