MIT Engineers Successfully Fire a 3D-printed Plastic-hulled Rocket

For a lot of consumers, 3D printing remains a niche market. Luckily, there are large corporations looking beyond this factor, as they use the technology to achieve exciting innovations. MIT has successfully fired a rocket motor which is made using 3D-printed plastic as an enclosure. Quite a nifty project that could have easily backfired, but everything went according to plan.

MIT Takes 3D Printing To The Next Level

It is evident MIT is the institution to keep an eye on when it comes to using 3D printing for interesting projects. Not only have engineers developed a nearly autonomous 3D printer capable of printing entire buildings in less than a day, but they also built a rocket motor using 3D printed parts. What is even more spectacular is how this project made use of plastic parts, rather than their metal counterparts.

To be more specific, MIT engineers successfully test-fired their 3D printed rocket motor made with a plastic casing. On paper, this sounds like a very dangerous endeavor, considering plastic can melt when exposed to massive heat fluctuations. Thankfully, that did not happen by any means, as the test result was surprisingly positive.

More importantly, the rocket successfully generated real thrust by invoking very little damage to the motor’s throttle at the same time. It is good to see the engineers acknowledge this project could have easily turned into a recipe for disaster, though. After all, experiments like these need to be conducted with a level ahead and knowing all of the potential risks. Then again, this is still the early stage of testing.

Moreover, it is important to note MIT did not conduct this experiment “just because they could.” Every type of project the engineers undertake has a purpose, and this 3D printed rocket was no different. Using 3D printed metal parts to encase the motor is very expensive and takes up a lot of valuable time. Using plastic is a much cheaper solution, even though the printer itself is still quite pricey.

It is not unlikely space agencies will take a closer look at this technology and use it to push the costs down on their missions. Plastic encasings make a lot of sense on paper, even though it sounds like a fire hazard waiting to happen.

All things considered, this is quite an intriguing development that could have major ramifications. Future rocket-oriented missions may all use plastic encasings in the future. The ultimate goal is to create plastic-hulled rockets capable of achieving flight, although that may take a few more years before it can come to fruition. These are very exciting times we live in, that much is evident.

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