To Print a Missile

July 20, 2015

The Hill:

The day is coming when missiles can be printed.

Researchers at Raytheon Missile Systems say they have already created nearly every component of a guided weapon using additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing. The components include rocket engines, fins, parts for the guidance and control systems, and more.

“You could potentially have these in the field,” said Jeremy Danforth, a Raytheon engineer who has printed working rocket motors. “Machines making machines. The user could [print on demand]. That’s the vision.”

The progress is part of a companywide push into additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, including projects meant to supplement traditional manufacturing processes. Engineers are exploring the use of 3-D printing to lay down conductive materials for electrical circuits, create housings for the company’s revolutionary gallium nitride transmitters, and fabricate fins for guided artillery shells.

The process may reduce costs associated with traditional manufacturing, such as machining of parts. It allows for quick design and rapid changes because engineers only need change the digital model representing the part. As long as they stay within set parameters, they can have new parts in hours instead of weeks.

“You can design internal features that might be impossible to machine,” said Raytheon engineer Travis Mayberry, who is researching future uses of additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. “We’re trying new designs for thermal improvements and lightweight structures, things we couldn’t achieve with any other manufacturing method.”…

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