A 3D printing specialist has developed a way to improve space engine part design using algorithmic engineering software.

Additive manufacturing (AM) specialist EOS recently formed an exclusive partnership with software supplier Hyperganic to improve design when metal 3D printing space rocket engines.

“For centuries, humans have used drawing boards to translate ideas onto paper before CAD systems changed the game,” the company said. “Yet, even small design changes still require laborious remodeling work. Since every iteration cost time and money, CAD-based approaches compel engineers to design conservatively instead of pushing the limits.”

Freedom of design has always been one of the guiding principles of AM, enabling part structures and applications that were impossible to manufacture using traditional production processes. According to EOS, the partnership between EOS and Hyperganic takes this approach to the next level.

Recently, the two companies designed and manufactured an aerospike rocket engine – a design which is often considered a tremendous engineering and manufacturing challenge. The engine was built from the ground up using an algorithmic model by Hyperganic and printed on an EOS M 400-4 AM machine. The complex part was printed with zero supports required, using the newly developed EOS NickelAlloy IN718 process.

Next, the aerospike engine was automatically reengineered for production on a larger M 4K system from EOS company Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines (AMCM) in EOS CopperAlloy CuCrZr. “The combination of this level of design complexity with the capability to print in this size in a reliable manner, will drive the next innovations in space propulsion,” EOS said.

“As a constant and pioneering innovator, we are now partnering with Hyperganic to introduce another paradigm shift in AM,” said Dr Hans J Langer, AM visionary and founder of EOS. It is a design shift that expands solution spaces as well as performance levels. At the same time, it will revolutionize the design process for AM, making AM a truly digital workflow from software-generated algorithmic engineering (AE) to digital manufacturing.”

“We are very excited to partner with EOS in this industry-first collaboration,” added Lin Kayser, CEO of Hyperganic. “AE translates ideas into designs in minutes, with the engineer setting the rules and the computer generating the results. Specifically, the field of space propulsion which still uses very conservative designs, will benefit greatly from AE.”

 Metal Powder Report spoke exclusively to Vinu Vijayan, key account manager at EOS, about the new design technology.

What is algorithmic engineering (AE)?

AE aims at the transformation of design and development process – from a very human centric, computer aided but predominantly manual approach, to a heavily software centric approach based on complex algorithms. Instead of the established CAD based approach’s focus on directly designing the physical object, AE focuses on coding the geometrical requirements and underlying physical and mathematical science into algorithms. The algorithms are then driven by engineering inputs by the user to iterate and create the shapes, parts and full systems. Once the algorithms are set up, then these can produce not one or two or a handful of design iterations, but hundreds of designs within a few days. These hundreds of designs are driven by near perfect optimization towards performance goals needed from the product, and already factoring in the manufacturing technologies etc – we thereby tap into a solution space that’s previously unimaginable.

How does it differ from other design software?

Conventional design approach, at the core is the same – in that, the design creation happens in the mind of a human designer, who encapsulates both the geometry and functionality demands into a design – which is first imagined, and then manually realized as a design on a paper or a CAD tool. AE takes this core process, and parks it inside an immensely well coded algorithm – thereby enabling the automation of this creation process. The automation of this process drastically reduces the time needed to iterate, correct and most importantly, optimize. Since it is software centric, the iterations can be many hundreds in days, and is not biased to the previous designs or not afraid of creating a design that’s too complex. This leads to the most optimized designs possible, designs previously unimaginable…from which an engineer can choose and test the best ones.

How is it especially useful for 3D printing?

With AE, designers and engineers are focused on setting up the performance goals and underlying physics governing their product, and thereby giving the algorithms the “full freedom to operate” in terms of complexity to iterate and optimize. This obviously leads to highly complex solutions. If it can’t be manufactured, the many complex variants outputted by the algorithms are simply a piece of art. Hence, mature AE tech like Hyperganic already integrates manufacturability expectations such as AM into their algorithms, so AM is an integral part of this transformation. AM is, furthermore, almost a must for this process due to two reasons: firstly the immensely complex designs produced by these algorithms can simply be realized only by AM; and secondly the algorithms and designs produced need a validation, fitness check, and further optimization. This can be done by simulation or tests/experiments, which need rapid manufacturing enabled by AM.”

How do you think it might improve 3D printing in future?

Replacing existing parts and parts with improved design have been a stepping stone for AM. Parts and systems purely designed for AM, as we know, are the sweetest spot. AE evolves this sweet spot even further – it creates humanly unimaginable designs that are purely designed for performance. These unseen design variants created, the ease and pace of iterations and performance gains thereof, will be compelling for many industries. These designs can be then realized predominantly only by AM. Once a part is designed and manufactured by AE, none of its future versions will be created by a human.

How do you think it might change/improve part manufacture for space applications?

Design, development and manufacturing of space applications in the recent years have been transformed, almost irreversibly, by AM. This is one of the main bases for the new space revival. This transformation has focused on reducing the complexity costs of the most critical parts – mainly by simplifying (and democratizing) the way these parts can be manufactured, and substantially increasing the functional performance of these parts with AM optimized designs. However, the industry has still not dared to radically change or push the core designs, as it’s very complex and highly time- effort intensive. AE, with AM, directly provides the opportunity to step into this realm. It provides a software centric and automated tool to innovate on the design front, which produces results in days and the parts can be printed and tested in days. This will lead to geometries, parts, applications and performance envelopes that simply don’t exist today. This disruption enabled by the combination of AE and AM will lead to dramatic reduction in the costs and time of development, remove bottlenecks for space companies to differentiate massively based on design and performance.