Skyrora develops Skyprint 2, “Europe’s largest hybrid 3D printer” for rocket parts


Skyrora, a private Edinburgh-based rocket maker, has developed what it claims to be Europe’s largest hybrid 3D printer.

Ready to start production in Q2 2022, the company’s next Skyprint 2 3D printer will be used to manufacture large-format rocket engine parts up to 2.3m in length for Skyrora’s satellite launchers. The machine is built on the previously developed Skyprint 1 and will feature both metallic 3D printing and traditional CNC milling functionality in the same workspace.

According to Skyrora, the Skyprint 2 will significantly reduce process complexity, while reducing production costs and printing times by around 30% compared to other metal 3D printers.

Skyrora Founder and CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: “Skyprint 2 strengthens our ambitions not only to be the first company to launch from UK soil, but to do so in the most sustainable way possible. By taking greater control of the design and manufacturing process of our parts using our advanced bespoke 3D printing technology, we are taking a crucial new step towards providing an important space service from our own soil. “

A rendering of Skyprint 2. Image via Skyrora.

Advancing spaceflight in the UK with Skyrora

Founded in 2017, Skyrora aims to be the leading space launch company in the UK. Primarily targeting the growing small satellite market, the company uses a combination of additive and conventional manufacturing to produce its own rockets. The company now has more than 150 employees across Europe and hopes to be the first to launch from a UK spaceport by 2022.

In 2019 Skyrora announced the opening of a new engine testing facility in Scotland. The facility has since been used to perform combustion and gimbal tests for its rockets.

Earlier this year, the firm also successfully completed the testing of the third stage of its Skyrora XL rocket. The launcher is designed to be able to restart its engines approximately 15 times once in orbit. It will be used to accomplish tasks such as acting as a space tug or desorbing missing satellites.

Most recently, in October 2021, Skyrora announced a multiple launch agreement with the spaceport. SaxaVord, The agreement will allow the company to complete 16 launches per year by 2030.

A Skyrora rocket being tested.  Photo via Skyrora.
A Skyrora rocket being tested. Photo via Skyrora.

Skyprint 2 3D printer

The Skyprint 2 will run on Skyrora’s Directed Energy Deposition (DED) 3D printing process, a form of additive manufacturing that uses high-power laser beams to melt metal powder as it is deposited out of it. a buzzard. The approach is known for its excellent material efficiency, ability to produce near-mesh-shaped components, and repair parts by simply printing additional layers.

Using the CNC capabilities of the system, Skyrora will be able to machine its printed parts to obtain the final finished geometries. The company will also be able to machine parts that were not originally printed.

According to Skyrora, Skyprint 2 will be compatible with Inconel, a nickel-based superalloy known for its high strength, excellent corrosion resistance and high temperature stability. Metal is one of the go-to options for high-stress, high-temperature parts in industries such as aerospace, and it turns out to be the bulk of Skyrora’s rocket engine components.

The traditional manufacture of engine parts in Inconel can take ten weeks from design to delivery, and that’s not counting quality changes or iterations. Using Skyprint 2, Skyrora hopes to be able to 3D print its own ready-made Inconel parts in just two weeks. The system will also allow the company to perform rapid design iterations as needed, all without the associated time and costs.

Levykin adds: “The creation of this cost-effective and rapid solution encapsulates the innovation and talent that resides at the heart of the UK space industry. As an asset, Skyprint 2 is a true game changer – it will transform Skyrora’s operations and stretch the limits of what is possible in space engineering in general.

Skyrora's existing Skyprint 1 3D printer.  Photo via Skyrora.
Skyrora’s existing Skyprint 1 3D printer. Photo via Skyrora.

With the advancement of additive manufacturing technology, 3D printing of rocket engine components is becoming more and more common. In October, the private American aerospace company Launcher reached a new milestone in the tests of its 3D printed rocket engine E-2 at NASA Stennis Space Center. The company also purchased a second Sapphire 3D printing system from OEM. Bike3D, which he will use to 3D print titanium orbiter pressure vessels for the engine.

Elsewhere, a California-based aerospace company Rocket lab recently received $ 24.35 million from the US Space Force to fund R&D for its next-generation Neutron launcher. The rocket is powered by the company’s 3D printed Rutherford engine and is capable of carrying up to 300 kilograms in low earth orbit.

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The featured image shows a render of Skyprint 2. Image via Skyrora.