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iLAuNCH Trailblazer leverages 3D printed large-scale composite structures

In partnership with New Frontier Technologies (NFT) and the Australian National University (ANU)

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The Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH) Trailblazer, a $180 million program dedicated to building Australia’s space capability, is leveraging advancements in carbon composite technology – such as the design flexibility and speed of additive manufacturing – to develop large-scale carbon composite structures for rockets and to reduce satellite mass.

“This is another world-class approach to lay up space-grade carbon fiber and then digitally model that for scale and repeatable design,” said Darin Lovett, Executive Director of the iLAuNCH Trailblazer. “As we make progress in developing sovereign capability for space applications, we know these products will also benefit defense, aerospace, and other sectors that require high-value, bespoke composite structures.”

This project will again utilize the design and advanced manufacture expertise of New Frontier Technologies (NFT) to create structures suitable for rocketry applications, along with the Australian National University’s (ANU) Australian Advanced Instrumentation Centre (AITC), and the X-ray Computed Tomography laboratory (CTLab) for testing.

Using an ANU high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanner to assess and mature the manufacturing process, the collaboration will build a functional digital twin of the rocket bodies to assess, qualify, and enhance the fidelity of structural models for simulation.

“Our world-class facilities, expertise in precision manufacturing, and rigorous test and validation capabilities will help NFT mature and commercialize technology that will advance Australian manufacturing capability,” said Professor Patrick Kluth, from the Australian National University’s Research School of Physics.

The application of x-ray CT and 3D multiscale modeling at ANU will provide high-fidelity simulation. The CT will capture the detailed microstructure features, such as fiber alignment and voids, that can be reflected in the simulation models. 3D models will provide a detailed digital profile, with the capability for performance simulation of every manufactured component – the foundation for digital certification.

The project lead, New Frontier Technologies, has developed innovative design-for-manufacture strategies for the scalable additive manufacturing of space-grade carbon-fiber structures using laser-assisted automated tape placement (ATP).

“This is the only ATP manufacturing capability of its kind in Australia and has been proven in European (ESA) projects for manufacture of high-performance composite structures for space applications,” said Paul Compston, Technologies Director and CEO at New Frontier.

By joining forces, iLAuNCH, ANU, and NFT will develop a qualified manufacturing process that will directly contribute to the development of rocket manufacturing in Australia through the optimization of automated additive manufacturing technologies.

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746 composites AM companies individually surveyed and studied. Core composites AM market generated over $785 million in 2023. Market expected to grow to $7.8 billion by 2033 at 25.8% CAGR. This new...

Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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