Avio Harnesses Velo3D’s 3D Printing for Space Propulsion


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During one of the aviation world’s largest shows, Velo3D (NYSE: VLD) announced the sale of two of its advanced metal 3D printers to Italian space propulsion manufacturer Avio (BIT: AVIO). A Sapphire XC 1MZ and an original Sapphire printer were purchased to support Avio’s propulsion system development. Velo3D CEO and Founder Benny Buller was on site at the International Paris Air Show 2023 alongside members of the Avio team for the announcement and proudly displayed Avio’s 3D printed copper combustion chamber at Velo3D’s booth D3 located in Hall 4.

Adopting 3D printing

Avio, an Italian aerospace pioneer listed on the STAR segment of the Italian Stock Exchange, is renowned for its innovative propulsion systems, instrumental in launching institutional, governmental, and commercial payloads into orbit through its Vega family of launch vehicles. With a history spanning over 120 years, Avio is currently focused on making space more accessible and affordable.

The newly purchased Velo3D’s Sapphire XC 1MZ and original Sapphire printers will be installed at Avio’s headquarters in Colleferro, Italy. These systems, capable of producing parts in a nickel-based alloy, offer strength, and corrosion resistance under extreme temperatures. Avio expects the acquisition to improve design quality, and reduce time-to-market for its products, thus propelling the European space industry’s progress further.

Velo3D at the International Paris Air Show displays Avio’s copper combustion chamber. Benny Buller (left), Francesco De Lorenzo (right). Image courtesy of Velo3D.

Velo3D’s Sapphire XC 1MZ and original Sapphire printers boast one of the largest build volumes for laser powder bed fusion 3D printers. With the Sapphire XC 1MZ’s print volume reaching 600 mm in diameter and 1,000 mm in height, and the original Sapphire printer having a print volume of 315 mm in diameter and 400 mm in height, Avio is set to overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing methods.

According to Velo3D, the printers offer a broad scope of geometric design freedom and a high degree of precision, enabling Avio to produce quality, high-performance components with intricate geometries that were previously unachievable. The results anticipate improved performance, reduced weight, enhanced reliability, and a more efficient and accessible space industry.

Sapphire XC 1MZ 3D printer

The Sapphire XC 1MZ 3D printer from Velo3D. Image courtesy of Velo3D.

Powering the new space age

Expressing his excitement about the partnership, Buller stated, “Avio is one of the leading space companies in Europe and we are thrilled to partner with them in their pursuit of groundbreaking propulsion systems. They work with some of the most innovative companies and agencies in Europe and around the world to provide them with the technology they need to reach space. The Sapphire XC 1MZ will help Avio further accelerate the development of its propulsion systems and contribute to the ongoing transformation of the space industry.”

This strategic collaboration is poised at a pivotal moment in the growing space industry. The sector is experiencing transformative advancements, partly fueled by the advent of 3D printing technology. Velo3D, serving customers like SpaceX and Launcher (now part of VAST), is already at the forefront of this transformation.

Avio’s Vega rocket. Image courtesy of Avio.

Avio’s Vega rocket family, developed for the European Space Agency (ESA), has two main models, the original Vega and Vega C (Consolidated). Launched for the first time in 2012, the Vega rocket flew 15 times successfully with only one failure in 2019 attributed to an eroded nozzle component. Avio then turned to its upgraded version of the Vega rocket, which increased payload capacity, and had its debut flight in July 2022 but also failed on its second launch.

At the time, leadership from both the ESA and Arianespace, which holds exclusive rights to market and sell launch services, expressed some frustration with the Vega program. Perhaps the move to acquire Velo3D machines is expected to yield more compatible and efficient development of Vega components, addressing past issues and boosting future success.

This landmark cooperation between Velo3D and Avio represents a significant leap forward in aerospace propulsion systems, pushing the boundaries of design and performance to new heights.

Velo3D at the International Paris Air Show displays Avio’s copper combustion chamber. Giulio Ranzo (left) and Roberto Esposito (right). Image courtesy of Velo3D.

Velo3D is not the only 3D printing company making announcements and showcasing parts at the Paris Air Show. CRP Technology is exhibiting 3D printed parts for space exploration and flight-ready prototypes that have already been used on space missions, as well as its Windform range of composite materials that are now used in space exploration and aerostructures. Roboze also participates in the event to show how additive manufacturing (AM) can help the industry produce complex, lightweight components. We can expect more announcements from the 3D printing industry at the Paris Air Show in the next few days.

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