Auburn University Wins $5.2M 3D Printing Contract from NASA
Morgan Grace Milburn posted on April 10, 2019 |
Additive manufacturing will be used to improve liquid rocket engine performance.

NASA recently awarded Auburn University’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) a contract to develop additive manufacturing processes. NCAME is part of Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. The purpose of the additive manufacturing processes is to improve liquid rocket engine performance. The three-year contract is valued at $5.2 million.

The contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project. The focus of NASA’s RAMPT project is to improve lightweight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques. By improving these manufacturing techniques, NASA hopes to improve the assembly of liquid rocket engines.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Auburn University already have an existing relationship, but this contract expands upon that relationship. According to Christopher B. Roberts, dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, “for decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals.” Roberts hopes that this contract between NASA and Auburn University’s additive manufacturing researchers “will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

Deputy director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Paul McConnaughey, also has high hopes for the Auburn University and NASA partnership. Referring to the recent partnership between Auburn University and NASA, McConnaughey said, “This partnership and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities.” McConnaughey’s reference to commercial opportunities refers to the technologies that will be available to the private sector.

By offering technologies created by this partnership to the private sector, NASA is opening the door to improved manufacturing techniques to more companies. The more companies that become involved in space exploration, the sooner the United States has the opportunity to “achieve it’s bold vision” of long-duration spaceflight that Roberts, the dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, referenced.

One of the goals of NASA’s RAMPT project is to construct a supply chain. Another of RAMPT’s goals is to cultivate a group of technology vendors. These technology vendors would have specialized manufacturing expertise. The combination of a supply chain and technology vendors would drastically increase the ability to manufacture rockets. The use of the supply chain and technology vendors would be made available not only to government agencies and other universities, but also to commercial companies with an interest in space exploration.

The principal investigator of the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei. Shamsaei is currently the director of NCAME. The project manager will be Mike Ogles. Ogles currently serves as the director of NASA programs for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

Ogles has said that he looks forward to helping to develop the rocket engines of the future. He also enjoys and hopes to further the relationship Auburn has not only with NASA, but with the industry as a whole. According to Ogles, “This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing.”

For more information, visit the NCAME website.

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