Design Engineering

Lockheed Martin, RedEye build one of the largest 3D printed parts

Fuel tank simulation to help validate new satellite design for aerospace giant.

May 7, 2014   by Design Engineering Staff

14-May-Lockheed-RedEye-tank-360Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company announced it partnered with Stratasys’s additive manufacturing service bureau division, RedEye, to 3D print two large fuel tank simulators for a satellite form, fit and function validation test. With the biggest tank measuring 15 feet long, the project marks one of the largest 3D printed parts RedEye has built to date.

Measuring, 6.75×3.8×3.8 feet, the larger of the two tanks was built in 10 different pieces and the smaller in 6 different pieces using polycarbonate (PC) material. Combined, the fuel tanks took nearly two weeks to print, taking roughly 150 hours per section. Due to the size of the parts, customized fixtures were required to support the structures as they were bonded together and shipped to be machined to meet specifications. Once all of the pieces were machined, the final assembly required 240 hours.

“This project is unique in two ways – it marks the first aerospace fuel tank simulation produced through additive manufacturing and is one of the largest 3D printed parts ever built,” said Joel Smith, strategic account manager for aerospace and defense at RedEye. “Our ability to accommodate such a large configuration and adapt to design challenges on the fly, demonstrates that there really is no limit to the problem-solving potential when you manufacture with 3D printing.”

RedEye has worked with Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company on various tooling and additive manufacturing projects in the past and the organizations are expected to partner further later this year.


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