3D printing technology provides another breakthrough at Westcott

02/08/19 | Tenant News

More ground breaking technology is being developed by engineers based at Westcott.

Airborne Engineering has developed the first copper 3D printed rocket chamber to be tested in Europe. The project which was supported by the UK Space Agency was an industrial collaboration between Airborne Engineering and 3T additive manufacturing of Newbury, which specialise in 3D printing technology. 

Copper is an excellent conductor which makes it an ideal material for a rocket chamber where heat as high as 2,500 Celsius must be transmitted out of the combustion chamber into a cooling jacket. The heat can then be recycled back into the propellants in a process known as regenerative cooling. 

Traditionally techniques involved in this process are extremely labour intensive and take months of work, but 3D printing makes production much faster and cheaper and in theory an engine can now be produced in around 10 days. 

Until now copper has proved very difficult to 3D print but Airborne Engineering has worked with a special copper alloy which has made the process possible. 

Funding came via the UK Space Agency National Space Technology Programme and now work will continue to develop a scaled down launch vehicle, working with the European Space Agency to test it on a rocket.

James Macfarlane, Director of Airborne Engineering, said: “It’s important for us as a company because it’s a showcase of the capabilities we have as a team made up of just five staff and two contractors. 

“This paves the way for bigger and better things in all directions. It’s also something that could become a potential product for us as we progress from purely research and development to selling rocket engines.” 

Airborne Engineering was established in 2001 and has been based at Westcott since 2009. 

Nigel MacKenzie, Project Manager at Westcott, said: “This is another example of pioneering space technology being developed on the Park. Airborne is also collaborating with other rocket propulsion companies as well as firms such as Reaction Engines which are soon to move to their new test site at Westcott.”

Westcott is recognised globally as an integral part of the UK Space sector growth strategy with a group of established companies supporting rocket and satellite enabled research and development projects.


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