Orbex is a company that develops launch vehicles (carrier rockets) that carry small satellites into Earth’s orbit. At the grand opening of its new headquarters in Forres, in the Scottish Highlands, the company presented its new Prime rocket, which it claims is environmentally friendly and 20% more efficient than its launch-vehicle peers. Among other advanced technology, its creation was made possible by the SLM-800 printer from German company SLM Solutions which printed the engine in one piece. According to SLM Solutions , the engine – which is made of a special nickel alloy based on metal powder – is the biggest additive manufactured component of its kind to date.
Well before producing the actual rocket, Orbex was already collaborating with a team of consultants from SLM Solutions on developing a component geometry that could cope with the special requirements of the aerospace industry on material properties and accuracy of dimensions. Printing on a selective laser melting (SLM) machine makes producing such an engine 90% less expensive and reduces the time investment by more than half when compared with conventional CNC processing.