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Launch of the 3D Printed Rocket at NASA | by jurvetson
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Launch of the 3D Printed Rocket at NASA

We launched this 3D-printed rocket at NASA Ames on Saturday with the LUNAR group. She flew straight as an arrow on an Aerotech E15 motor.


This was the first flight. I wanted to make sure the more powerful AP motors would not overheat the Makerbot PLA material around the motor. I was also curious about the strength of the materials.


The going up part was perfect, but it pretty much shattered on the return. Build notes and post-mortem below.


Looking forward, I am excited about the integrated fin can possibilities for clusters. It removes a ton of labor for fin alignment and motor tube integration. With rod guide, motor tubes, shock cord attach point, and fins printed in one step, about 90% of the rocket build effort would shift to a single print. I estimate that this fin can cost $1.82 in material and energy, so the idea of a single-use fin can assembly might not be so crazy. It would just have to be strong enough for the up part, and with perfect fin alignment, there may be little fin flutter at subsonic speeds (I’ll try to fly a strap-on camera next time to watch the fins).


3D printing is also good for decorative items. For example, I plan to print a bulbous nosecone fairing to make a kit-bash of three SpaceX Falcon9’s look like a Falcon Heavy.


But the strength to weight ratio makes the least sense for body tubes.


Does anyone have experience lathering the exterior of Replicator 2 prints with epoxy to strengthen?

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Taken on March 16, 2013