Engineers Use 3D Printing to Power Hypersonic Vehicles

3D printed objects for hypersonic vehicles


The University of Arizona announced a $1.2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research’s Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) to back the Arizona Research Center for Hypersonics.

The funds will support the work of Andrew Wessman and Sammy Tin, two professors attempting to develop materials for 3D-printed objects used in hypersonic vehicles. Wessman and Tin aim to make metallic alloys that can resist hypersonic flight’s high temperatures and stress levels.

The DURIP grant will fund a lineup of instruments, including a gas atomization system, a powder bed fusion system, a vacuum furnace, and an X-ray diffractometer.

Tin, the head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UArizona’s College of Engineering, said alloys and materials specific to additive manufacturing would allow the professors to customize alloy chemistries with attributes friendly to 3D printing.

The professors listed heat resistance as a critical feature since objects moving at hypersonic speeds can reach temperatures as high as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the alloys would need oxidation-resistant properties to combat the “wearing out” process. The research also applies to manufacturing high-performance components for rocket and jet engines.

Combined, Wessman and Tin hold more than a dozen alloy development patents.

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