Newslet – Week April, 20-24

In Archive by Dorothée Doepfer

Another week is over, and with it some interesting news were published referring to the topic of 3D printing. This week it seems like China is the country of this week, as lots of breathtaking news in 3D printing came from China. Of course, there is no week without any news of NASA about their newest show-stopper. We picked as usual a palmful of what appeared especially worth mentioning to us. Enjoy the weekend!

Race for Space USA vs. Chine Goes in next Round:

It looks like time has come and 3D printed functional parts will actually go to space. At the beginning of this week Chinese engineers, who work in cooperation with the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), announced, they had successfully tested a 3D printed rocket. Shell structures typically used for ignition components in rocket engines are very difficult to build, therefore it is all the more exciting that Chinese engineers were able to print the first set of shells for ignition devices with excellent results and for a reasonable price. To ensure these shells meet all design requirements, researchers printed hundreds of 3D printed samples which were used for various heavy testing sequences.

The NASA announced as well this week, they are the first who printed a full-scale copper rocket engine part within the framework of its Low Cost Upper Stage-Class Propulsion Project. Seve Jurczyk, Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington  (D.C., USA) said “Additive manufacturing is one of many technologies we are embracing to help us continue our journey to Mars and even sustain explorers living on the Red Planet.” Only a handful of copper rocket parts has been made with the help of 3D printing so far. Especially rocket components are hard to print as they have to withstand both extreme hot and cold temperatures and have complex cooling channels built on the outside of an inner wall that is as thin as a pencil mark. The copper part shown by the NASA was built with GRCo-84, a copper alloy created by materials scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland (Ohio,USA) where extensive materials characterization helped validate the 3-D printing processing parameters and ensure build quality. In a next step the copper liner will be shipped to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton (Virginia, USA) where an electron beam freedom fabrication facility will direct deposit a nickel superalloy structural jacket onto the outside of the copper liner. Later this year engineers will test the engine component for hot fires and will determine how the engine performs under extreme temperatures and pressures simulating the conditions inside the engine as it burns propellant during a rocket flight We are excited to hear more about the Race for Space between China and the USA.

3D Printing Guided Complex Liver Resection

3D printing is becoming almost irreplaceable in modern medicine especially when it comes to the fields of transplantation and prostheses. Nowadays implants and 3D printed replicas help surgeons to prepare for complex operations and, therefore, are already saving lives everywhere. One of these very complex surgeries has just been completed in China by using a 3D printed replica. For the first time in Chinese medical history, doctors at Zhujiang Hospital of Southern Medical University used a 3D printed replica to complete a liver resection surgery on a 35 year old male patient who suffered from a melon-sized tumor on the right lobe of the liver, a place where it is almost impossible to perform a surgery. To practice for this very high-risk surgery doctors printed a large and complex simulation model of the patient’s liver in 3D, as well as the tumor itself (hepatocellular carcinoma) the bile,  islets cells and the lesion area. The data for the very accurate replica was taken from CT scans. Besides preparing the doctors for their performance, the model was used to demonstrate the patient and his family to intuitively understand the disease and the operative risk. Therefore, 3D printing replicas could be an outstanding tool to improve the very sensitive field of physician-patient communication.