Contribution Oral Presentation
Additive manufacturing at ESA – achievements, lessons learned and the next challenges
The development and manufacturing of space hardware is strongly based on “heritage”, a concept that favours well known and tested components that ideally have flown on board space missions before. The advent of additive manufacturing (AM) opened new opportunities for the space industry, which typically produces parts in low quantities and places high value on mass reduction and design freedom. Within the European Space Agency (ESA) AM was adopted as an “enabling technology”, first through the funding of small exploratory projects and more recently through larger activities that are encompassed by ESA’s advanced manufacturing road map. While earlier studies were rather focused on intrinsic aspects of the AM process, the more recent framework of studies also includes all stages of the so-called end-to-end AM process (e.g. design and part conception, raw material procurement and quality control, post-processing steps, part verification, etc.) as well as alloy development and process maturation in the context of developing space hardware. A particular emphasis is also placed on strengthening the metal powder supply chain and identifying the key powder characteristics that may help to predict the final part properties. This presentation will highlight the lessons learned from selected projects and how they fed into the current portfolio of ESA activities, which are designed to address the challenges faced by the space community to develop the next generations of space hardware having the required quality and performance levels whilst reducing cost and lead-time.