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ETH Zurich RAPTURE project developing multi-material LPBF for rockets

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A team from the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich is seeking to take laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) to the next level through the ability to 3D print multiple materials in a single build. This work is being carried out through the RAPTURE project, which is part of the Academic Space Initiative Switzerland (ARIS) and therefore has an aerospace focus. Specifically, the LPBF system is being developed to produce multi-material rocket components.

RAPTURE is being advanced by a small team of ETH Zurich students in their final academic year, who are in charge of the process development with support from academic supervisors and industry professionals, including ETH Zurich’s Prof. Dr. Markus Bambach and Dr. Michael Tucker, systems engineer at nanoSPACE AG and ARIS project manager Fiona Konnerth, and doctoral student Raphael Steffen.

The project aims to enhance LPBF’s potential and performance through multi-material printing as well as through faster printing times and superior powder conservation. As the team says: “With a newly developed recoating method we aim to build the fastest and most powder conserving system to date.”

RAPTURE multi-material LPBF

Multi-material LPBF is not widespread in the metal AM industry, though it does exist (see Aerosint’s SPD technology). For aerospace rocket applications especially, the capability has big benefits, as it could enable the integration of multiple materials in a single build for enhanced lightweighting, strength and performance.

As the RAPTURE team writes on the project on its website: “In rocketry, where efficiency is critical, multi-material LPBF offers the flexibility needed to create specialized components, such as heat shields and nozzles, each with tailored material properties. This technology promises to enhance the reliability and performance of rocket systems, making it a valuable advancement in the aerospace industry.”

Notably, the RAPTURE project is a ETH Zurich Focus Project that builds on the 2022-2023 PROMETHEUS Focus Project which saw the development of a test bed for 3D printed liquid-fueled rocket engines. The RAPTURE project has a number of industry sponsors including Autodesk, General Dynamics, Sauber Technologies and many more.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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