The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled plans to "take 3D printing into the metal age" by building specialized parts for jets, craft and fusion projects.
The ESA says it wants to develop complex printed parts made of metal that can withstand temperatures at 1000°C, which are fit for use in space -- as well as materials suitable for nuclear fusion reactors.
Unveiled Tuesday at a consortium in additive manufacturing -- otherwise known as 3D printing -- at the London Science Museum, together with the European Commission and industry partners, the agency showcased its efforts in using 3D printing to produce metal.
The Amaze project -- also known as the Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products -- began in January, and factory sites are being set up in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the U.K. to develop the industrial supply chain.
28 institutions in total are developing light, strong and cheap components using 3D printing, and hope to use this technology to more efficiently manufacture parts for rockets, planes and satellites -- making the space industry more eco-friendly in the process by cutting waste.
The ESA's Franco Ongaro said:
"We need to clean up our act -- the space industry needs to be more green. And this technique will help us."
At the event, the ESA revealed tungsten alloy components that can withstand temperatures of up to 3,000c -- which would be able to tolerate use in nuclear fusion reactors and on rockets. David Jarvis, the head of new materials and energy research, said:
"We want to build the best quality metal products ever made. Objects you can't possibly manufacture any other way. 3,000c is as hot as you can imagine for engineering. If we can get 3D metal printing to work, we are well on the way to commercial nuclear fusion."
Image credit: Flickr/ EADS