Design Innovation Paper

Redesigning a Reaction Control Thruster for Metal-Based Additive Manufacturing: A Case Study in Design for Additive Manufacturing

[+] Author and Article Information
Nicholas Meisel

ASME Member The Pennsylvania State University, 213J Hammond Building, University Park, PA, 16802

Matthew R. Woods

Xact Metal, 200 Innovation Boulevard, State College, PA, 16802

Timothy W. Simpson

ASME Fellow The Pennsylvania State University, 209 Leonard Building, University Park, PA, 16802

Corey J. Dickman

Applied Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 30 4400D, State College, PA 16804

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4037250 History: Received January 30, 2017; Revised May 25, 2017


Prior research has shown that powder bed fusion (PBF) additive manufacturing (AM) can be used to make functional, end-use components from powdered metallic alloys, such as Inconel® 718 superalloy. However, these end-use components and products are often based on designs developed for more traditional subtractive manufacturing processes and do not take advantage of the unique design freedoms afforded by AM. In this paper, we present a case study involving the redesign of NASA's existing "pencil" thruster used for spacecraft attitude control. The initial pencil thruster was designed for and manufactured using traditional subtractive methods. The main focus in this paper is to (a) identify the need for and use of both opportunistic and restrictive Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) concepts and considerations in redesigning the thruster for fabrication with PBF AM and (b) compare the resulting DfAM thruster with a parallel development effort redesigning the original thruster to be manufactured more effectively using subtractive manufacturing processes. The results from this case study show how developing end-use AM components using specific DfAM guidelines can significantly reduce manufacturing time and costs while enabling new and novel design geometries.

Copyright (c) 2017 by ASME
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