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Novel Sensor Solutions for Qualification of Additively Manufactured Launch and Space Vehicle Components


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Platforms 

OBJECTIVE: Develop sensor solutions that can be embedded into printed structures and aid in the qualification of Additive Manufacturing (AM) components for launch and space vehicles. 

DESCRIPTION: The world of manufacturing is changing rapidly, with products being designed, made, and used in new ways as a result of AM. Processes used to manufacture critical components for launch and space vehicle component applications must still be formally qualified. While efforts are underway to tackle the process, alternative methods call for embedded sensors to be integrated into parts during the printing process.. These sensors are envisioned to be utilized for qualifying the part during and after production, but may also be useful after production for assessing component integrity during fielded use. Various sensing methodologies are of interest including but not limited to purely passive components such as strain gauges, thermistors, etc. as well as active solutions that utilize powered components to generate elastic waves or characterize structural responses like piezo-electrics. Sensors can be read via wired approaches by taking leads to test points on the external surface of the part, however, more advanced methods are of interest that incorporate wireless methods for data and power as well as suit materials that are metallic or dielectric. Furthermore, it is ideal if the sensor can be printed along with the part rather than be a separate component that is embedded requiring process halting for manned labor, but this is not a requirement. While no one technology is expected that an address all stated needs, this list is intended to define the scope of interest. 

PHASE I: Develop sensing method and evaluate effectiveness for characterizing print relevant defects and assess integration/embedding methodologies and impact of insertion on overall print quality. Demonstrate by analysis and/or test the feasibility of such concepts and that the approach be utilized for qualification of a representative part. 

PHASE II: Demonstrate the technology developed in Phase I. Tasks shall include, but are not limited to, a demonstration of embedded functionality, limitations of approach in a larger setup. 

PHASE III: Utilize the process developed during phase II and implement the approach on prototype launch vehicle or spacecraft hardware. Develop an approach and means to transition the technology to the user community including industry, academia, and government. 


1. Macdonald,, Multiprocess 3D printing for increasing component functionality, Science , Vol. 353, Issue 6307 , 30 Sep 2016.; 2. Seifi, et al., “Overview of Materials Qualification Needs for Metal Additive Manufacturing,” Journal of Materials, March 2016, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 747–764; 3. “A Summary Review of Wireless Sensors and Sensor Networks for Structural Health Monitoring,” The Shock and Vibration Digest 2006.; 4. EELV New Entrant Certification Manufacturing and Quality audits, SpaceX, 2014-15

KEYWORDS: Additive Manufacturing, 3d Printing, Qualification, Sensors, Wireless, Inspection, Verification, Validation, Launch Vehicle, Space Vehicle, Satellite 

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