With its heritage systems - Atlas and Delta - United Launch Alliance (ULA) has supported America's presence in space for more than 50 years. Like other leading edge manufacturers using 3D printing, ULA progressed from prototyping to tooling and then to flight hardware production.
After acquiring two Fortus 900mc 3D Production Systems from Stratasys, ULA began the process of updating the environmental control system (ECS) duct on the Atlas V, which will launch with the new 3D component in 2016. The ECS duct is critical to the countdown sequence of a launch, delivering nitrogen to sensitive electronic components within the rocket booster.
The previous design for the ECS duct assembly contained 140 parts, but by modifying the design using FDM 3D Printing Technology, ULA consolidated the number of parts to only 16. This significantly reduces installation time and results in a 57 percent part-cost reduction.