It definitely looks like 3D printing technology has a bright future in aerospace industries. Over the last few months we've seen the development of numerous 3D printed parts are not just intended as prototypes, but that might actually even go to space. Just this week we've seen a 3D printed engine by NASA, but it looks like Chinese developers are definitely not staying behind. For engineers from Institute 41 (part of the China Aerospace Science and industry Corporation) have already successfully tested an engine ignition device that has been created using 3D printing technology.
This is reportedly the first time Chinese engineers tested a 3D printed rocket component, but it seems to be very suitable for the job. Shell structures typically used for the ignition components in rocket engines are very difficult to design and produce, and are very costly and time-consuming to create. Engineers felt themselves bottlenecked, so a team from the ignition technology research laboratory of Institute 41 began incorporating 3D printing into their R&D process.
In collaboration with local manufacturers of 3D printing equipment, these engineers eventually and successfully 3D printed the first set of shells for ignition devices. To ensure these shells met all design requirements, researchers produced hundreds of 3D printed test samples, which were submitted to various extensive testing sequences.
These excellent results, and the reduced costs, have already convinced Institute 41 to direct their focus to design optimization and to make full use of the advantages of 3D printing. According to Chinese media, it is expected that the use of 3D printing technology will be expanded to other aspects of ignition production as well, and even to the manufacturing of other engine components.