Fueled by beer and the enthusiasm of amateurs, a British team on Friday said it was preparing to launch the world’s first ever 3D printed rocket.
Showing off the human-sized rocket in a central London office, Lester Haines, head of the “Special Projects Bureau” at technology magazine The Register, described the technical challenges and “big future” of 3D printing in aeronautics.
“You can do highly complex shapes that simply aren’t practical to do any other way,” he said, dressed in a white lab coat sporting the project motto “Ad astra tabernamque,” which means “to the stars and the pub.”
“NASA are already 3D-prinsting metal rocket parts, so it’s obviously got a big future,” he said.
The project — sponsored by German data analytics firm Exasol AG — was suggested by readers of The Register and goes by the grand title “Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator,” or LOHAN for short.
It took 30 committed team members, including doctorate aeronautical engineers, four years to build the rocket.
The biggest challenge was getting the standard hobbyist rocket motor to fire at high altitudes, Haines said.
The team said it plans to launch the rocket from Spaceport America, the home of Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, later this year, after securing the ￡15,000 (US$24,000) needed for liftoff on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
A huge helium balloon will lift the rocket 20,000m into the stratosphere, at which point the onboard GPS is set to ignite the engine, catapulting it to speeds of about 1,610kph.
The 3kg rocket, which cost ￡6,000 to print, is then scheduled to use an onboard autopilot to guide it back to Earth, all captured by an onboard video camera.
Haines explained how 3D printing’s main advantage was in speeding up the process of refining prototypes, requiring only a tweak to the computer-aided design plans that instruct the printer.
He called LOHAN “a because it’s there project,” which had no commercial value, but added that the number of potential uses for similar unmanned aerial vehicles was “endless.”
With the countdown on, Haines dispelled any suggestions the crew was feeling the pressure.
“We got some of the team turning up for a beer tonight,” he revealed. “It’s going to get really messy.”
BEATING SCHEDULE: Government plans are for nacelle assemblies to be totally local from next year, but Orsted Taiwan said that it was going ‘above and beyond’ Wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA yesterday inaugurated Taiwan’s first nacelle assembly plant at the Port of Taichung, its first assembly facility for offshore nacelles outside Europe. Vice Premier Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津), a long-time champion of Taiwan’s ambitions to become a regional hub in the offshore wind farm industry, described the plant as a “milestone” at a ceremony at the plant. “The completion of Siemens Gamesa’s nacelle assembly plant is a milestone for the development of the offshore wind farm industry in Taiwan and a step toward localizing the supply chain,” Shen said. “This is only the beginning. My great hope
ROBUST DEMAND: 5G, AI and Internet of Things technologies are driving growth and employment, as the company plans a new plant in Hsinchu County Contract electronics manufacturer Wistron Corp (緯創) plans to invest about NT$11.1 billion (US$400.58 million) in Taiwan, in line with its global deployment strategy, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Friday. The company’s investment is also a demonstration of robust demand for 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things applications, the ministry said in a statement. Wistron, spun off from Acer Inc (宏碁) in 2001, is a notebook computer original design manufacturing partner to major PC brands. The company, which is based in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), also produces servers, data storage devices, game consoles and communications products for brand clients
CHIPPING AWAY: Hon Hai would use TSMC’s 40-nanometer process to make battery management ECUs for the growing electric vehicle market, it said Manufacturing giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) is using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC, 台積電) technology to produce its electronic control units (ECUs), as part of its foray into electric vehicle development. In an online Next Forum held by the Hon Hai Research Institute (鴻海研究院) and industry group SEMI on Thursday, Chen Wei-ming (陳偉銘), head of Hon Hai’s semiconductor business group, said the company was using TSMC’s 40-nanometer process for ECU production. Hon Hai is keen to produce ECUs, which are used to control one or more functions in a vehicle, tailored for its customers, Chen said. Although Taiwanese firms command the
TECHNOLOGY Apple’s fee row continues Apple Inc on Thursday rejected a request by Fortnite creator Epic Games to restore its account on the iPhone maker’s iOS platform in South Korea so that it could add its own payment option. Apple is battling a lawsuit filed last year by Epic, alleging that the smartphone maker abused its dominance in the market for mobile apps. Their dispute pivoted to South Korea last week when its parliament approved a bill that bans major app store operators, including Apple, from forcing software developers to use their payment systems, effectively stopping them from charging commission on in-app