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United Launch Alliance (ULA) Uses 3D Printed Parts on Rockets

Making launch vehicles for NASA, the Air Force and commercial satellites, ULA knows 3D printing is a serious manufacturing tool. After acquiring two Fortus 900mc 3D Production Systems from Stratasys, ULA began the process of updating the Environmental Control System (ECS) duct on the Atlas V, which will launch with the new 3D component in 2016. The ECS duct is critical to the countdown sequence of a launch, delivering nitrogen to sensitive electronic components within the rocket booster. The previous design for the ECS duct assembly contained 140 parts, but by modifying the design using FDM 3D Printing Technology, ULA consolidated the number of parts to only 16. This significantly reduced installation time while resulting in a 57 percent part-cost reduction. ULA originally adopted 3D printing for tooling applications. Now, as you'll see in this exciting video even the sky isn't the limit for Stratasys additive manufacturing.