A 3-D Laser Printer

GE is building the world’s largest one:

The prototype Atlas printer, announced on Wednesday, can print objects up to one meter long using titanium, aluminum, and other metals instead of the plastics, resins, and filaments that many commercial and consumer 3D printers use. That means it could print an entire engine block for a car or truck, for example, replacing the specialized machines and tooling that are currently required to make those types of products in a factory.

GE said it plans to unveil the Atlas in November. The prototype can only print objects up to one meter in two directions, such as length and width, but once the production version is ready next year, it will be able to print objects up to one meter in any direction.

Seems like just the thing for cheap rocket engines.

8 thoughts on “A 3-D Laser Printer”

  1. Seams like just the thing for all metal replacement parts on mars.

    That would reduce the cost of a mars colony by a few billion.

    1. You’d still need replacements for the lasers and power electronics. And surface finishing would be needed for some components. But the ability to 3D print from a wide variety of powdered materials would let this one device do a lot of the fabrication desired locally. Including, I expect, ceramics and some other non-metallic materials.

      I’m not finding mention of the laser tech used … On Mars CO2 lasers would seem a tempting tech.

      1. I wonder if disassembled, this 3D printer could fit inside Red Dragons. There are a lot of things that have to be done before Musk’s ITS plan can get going.

      2. I haven’t looked into what it would take to build lasers on mars, but they absolutely and certainly could build the electronic power components. In many cases having some components to start with gives you a bootstrap to make those same components.

        Hobbyist 3-D printers often have the ability to make most of their own parts, while other devices can make the remaining parts those printers can’t build themselves. This also often means they can scale themselves up and down.

        Making electronic components is no more magic than anything else. I once worked for a company that did exactly that although my job was a bit more technical than most workers on the floor. Which incidentally required a controlled environment. The trick is getting the tolerances right. My book is now up to 30 pages and will include a manufacturing ecology suitable for mars. That should take up the bulk of the book since there is a lot to cover. I’m hoping feedback will expand on that.

        Not only is none of this magic, but the skills to do it are not that hard. Most things, after all, are not manufactured by experts but by the technicians trained by them.

        Finding raw materials will be greatly enhanced by satellite surveys; some of which are done and others planned.

        This is why chemists and machinists are on the top of my list for mars colonists… a geologist wouldn’t hurt either.

  2. 3D printing means you can deliver raw materials in simple form, then fabricate. For the moon, this may involve crashing the materials onto the lunar surface rather than soft landing. The moon’s escape velocity is sufficiently low that many materials can surface without melting, never mind vaporizing, although they may be deformed or fragmented.

    To cushion a landing on the lunar surface I’ve suggested using foamed glass as a landing pad, to reduce peak impact forces. Melted regolith mixed with some dissolved gas, then sprayed over the landing area, should foam up nicely.

    1. I see 3D printing being used a lot to produce tooling for other manufacture techniques. As adaptable as a good 3D printer is, other methods can produce faster, stronger, or better surface finish, among other advantages.

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