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3Din30 Episode 3: Additive Manufacturing in Hypersonic Testing

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The team at VELO3D launched 3Din30, our LinkedIn Live series, to connect with our audience, answer questions, and share some of the unique applications we and our partners are exploring with metal additive manufacturing. In our first two installments, we covered the basics of Laser Powder Bed Fusion, and making the switch to Additive Manufacturing.

In our third installment, we explore a unique, cutting-edge application for additive manufacturing: hypersonic testing, particularly the research work by Zucrow Labs at Purdue University. For this episode, Senior Director of Marketing Mike Rogerson was joined by Gene Miller, Senior Applications Engineer, VELO3D and Nick Strahan, and Dr. Carson Slabaugh from Zucrow Labs.

You can watch/listen to the entire conversation here. And remember to follow VELO3D on LinkedIn for future installments of 3Din30.

Why Metal AM and Hypersonics Research Were Such a Natural Pairing

Hypersonics research presents a challenge for scientists and engineers. While designing and simulating devices may be similar to other forms of advanced engineering, the testing of hypersonic assemblies is unique. Hypersonic vehicles are exposed to extreme conditions: up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and 1,000 PSI: essentially the exhaust of a rocket engine. These conditions need to be recreated in a laboratory and monitored with all the required measurement devices.

“Working in the space of hypersonics is recreating, in a laboratory setting, the environment that a hypersonic vehicle is going to fly in,” says Dr. Slabaugh. “For us to be able to test propulsion systems, combustors, things like this, we need to know that these systems are going to work on the ground. When a vehicle flies through the atmosphere at six times the speed of sound, it is effectively flying through a fireball. The temperature of the gases on the surface of that vehicle can be 3,000-degree Fahrenheit and pressures in excess of 700 PSI. These are very hot, very high-pressure flows.”

To recreate these conditions, Zucrow Labs turned to the metal AM experts at VELO3D.  Because of the extreme nature of the testing, Dr. Slabaugh says, even supercomputer modeling is unreliable. To test his designs, they created a batch of injectors using different geometries. By varying the angle of the mixing blades, they found the optimal balance between back pressure and mixing efficiency. This required a manufacturing process that could replicate varying geometries and reach repeatable performance with regard to all other variables such as surface finish, density, porosity, etc. Given VELO3D’s background with rocket engines and injector designs, they were the obvious choice.

“Doing this [parts manufacturing] subtractively, or through a casting process, would’ve been much more expensive in tooling, especially doing four different versions. Because these would not have been parameters that we could have changed otherwise,” Strahan says.

Looking to the Future of Hypersonics Research

The field of hypersonics is expanding. Applications using the technology have the potential to reverberate across multiple industries including defense, space, and particularly aerospace.

“[Hypersonics is at] the bleeding edge of what’s becoming really popular now,” says Strahan. “With companies who are working on commercializing hypersonic flight; hypersonics are becoming more and more publicly available and publicly accessible. It’s a fascinating engineering challenge.”

As we look to the future of hypersonics, between metal AM’s capacity for innovation in design, materials, and production methods, it is clear that additive manufacturing will play a pivotal role going forward. The work at Purdue and Zucrow Labs is a shining example of the work that can be done when drivers of innovation join forces and grow together.

“Being how adaptive additive is for prototyping in a research context where we are often flipping through prototypes quickly, or trying different things – additive is really helpful,” Strahan says. “We couldn’t tell the difference between this and a machined part in many ways. So, the technology is there. Ten years ago, it seemed like a fantasy but we’re getting parts just as good as machined parts at this point.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the metal AM process with VELO3D, get in touch with one of our experts today to discuss how additive manufacturing can transform your operation.

Other Topics Discussed

  • What software is used in the hypersonics parts modeling process?
  • What materials are used in hypersonics testing?
  • How VELO3D has reduced the prototype development time.
  • More inside the hypersonics testing environment.

Remember to watch the whole discussion here.

Be Sure to Join the Next Live 3Din30

The team at VELO3D is excited to continue the 3Din30 series as a way to interact with those who have questions about the metal additive manufacturing world, and the part VELO3D plays in driving innovation. Our next session will be on June 17, titled “The Secret to Optimal Design” featuring Primus Aerospace.

Follow us on LinkedIn to be the first to know about all our exciting upcoming events!

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