The founders of aerospace startup Relativity Space are aiming for the stars when envisioning the potential of 3-D printing in the industry. Using massive 3-D printers which incorporate autonomous robotic arms, founders Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone believe that they can eventually shrink the time-frame for building a rocket to less than one month.
Though it’s frequently pointed out that both Noone and Ellis exude youthful optimism reflective of their age (each is in their mid-20s), there is reason to believe that Relativity Space’s aims are more than wishful thinking. Relativity Space’s quest to build 3-D printers with the capacity to build rocket parts has been underway for two years, and the results have begun to show. It has been reported that, using their in-house printers, Relativity Space has produced a 7 x 14 foot fuel tank in a matter of days and an engine in a week and a half.
This increase in speed defies the traditional conception of large-part 3-D printing, which has been considered a slower, more painstaking tasks than traditional welding. The singularity of direction which Relativity Space has brought to the production of their printers, which have the sole aim of producing parts for rockets, has resulted in a mechanism for printing that is the first of its kind. The specially-made printer includes robotic arms that reach eighteen feet in height, equipped with lasers capable of melting aluminum wire into liquid metal to be re-shaped. This printer design, referred to as Stargate, is at the center of a business model which Ellis and Noone believe will cut manufacturing costs by as much as 90% in approximately four years’ time. As of now, the company’s goal is to have a 90-foot rocket in orbit by 2021.
Noone’s history as an employee of SpaceX, and Ellis’s at Amazon-owned aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin, have certainly helped them gain credibility in the sphere, and the early returns from Stargate are promising.