back to article Scottish rocketeers Orbex commission Europe's largest industrial 3D printer to crank out 35 engines a year

A 12 metric tonne 3D printer - one of the largest in Europe - has been commissioned by Orbex, intended to allow the Scottish space launch biz to "print" 35 rocket engines each year. The beast, accommodated in an expansion of Orbex's factory of 1,000 square metres, will churn out the large-scale rocket engines and main stage …

  1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge


    That whole anti pirate ad about stealing cars seems even more ironic considering that printer sounds like it'd be capable of printing a whole car in one go.

    I wonder if we're ever going to see reasonable priced metal printers for the home like we have with the plastic printers?

    Icon: for when they test the rocket in Australia(if they ever do)...

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Suddenly..

      A single solid block probably wouldn't be much good for anything other than 1:1 scale models though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Suddenly..

        "A single solid block probably wouldn't be much good for anything other than 1:1 scale models though."

        Well, you *could* print doors with hinges in place using a small amount of support material that you cut off once the print is finished. However, you couldn't do that for internal combustion engine parts because of the part tolerances needed. (Plus I defy anyone to print a cylinder ring in place with the spring it needs to actually function properly....)

        As an aside, I seem to remember a story about an abandoned alien subway / tube train which the human archeologists thought had been cast in one piece, which is possible for some simple 3D designs. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer. The story might have been called "The subway of Kazoo" or something similar...

        1. 0laf

          Re: Suddenly..

          "The Unorthodox Engineers were the subject of a series of science fiction short stories by Colin Kapp. They were a misfit bunch of engineers who solved problems of alien technology/weird planets in the future. The stories had a very large grain-of-salt-type humor.

          They were commanded by maverick engineer Fritz van Noon and included, amongst others, a convicted bank robber as quartermaster (on the entirely-sound grounds that he was likely to be the most capable person for the job).

          The Unorthodox Engineers originally appeared in various British SF magazines:

          "The Railways Up on Cannis" (New Worlds October, 1959)

          "The Subways of Tazoo" (New Writings in SF 3)

          "The Pen and the Dark" (New Writings in SF 8)

          "Getaway from Getawehi" (New Writings in SF 16)

          "The Black Hole of Negrav" (New Writings in SF 25)."

          1. SteveastroUk

            Re: Suddenly..

            One of my all-time favourite anthologies.

          2. AdamT

            Re: Suddenly..

            Upvote for reminding me of the authors name! Hopefully I can find a copy of the anthology now. For some reason I thought they were Harry Harrison as their styles are similar.

            (also upvote for the AC who prompted this!)

        2. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Suddenly..

          The Subway of Glasgow? AKA The Clockwork Orange. How can a train be one part with the rail unless the rail moves?

          I cannae change the laws of physics, I've got to have thirty minutes!

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Suddenly..

            Note: No Glaswegian would ever call it "The Clockwork Orange", which is a term used exclusively by London journalists. The Glasgow name for it was "The Subway", even though it became "The Underground" at electrification in the 30s. The name changed back recently, on the basis that if we hadn't accepted the new name after eighty years we probably weren't going to.

            1. Danny 2 Silver badge

              Re: Suddenly..

              No Glaswegian would ever call Glaswegian's "wee Gee's", yet that is what everyone else has called you since the 1980s. We only differentiate on spelling.

              "How do ye make a Ouija board? Take away their Temazepam."

              Yer Subway is a lazy student pub crawl, AKA Subcrawl. And that is local vernacular!

              [If it's any compensation then the new Edinburgh tram line is locally called "Glasgow's revenge"]

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Suddenly..

      > I wonder if we're ever going to see reasonable priced metal printers for the home like we have with the plastic printers?

      Sure, as soon as the fucking patents expire, just like with filament-deposition and stereolithography printers. We only have to wait, what... 18 years?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Suddenly..

        > Sure, as soon as the fucking patents expire, just like with filament-deposition and stereolithography printers. We only have to wait, what... 18 years?

        But patents are there to ensure inventors get just reward for their ingenuity. How on earth are they supposed to make money if they sell hundreds of thousands of metal printers to schools, technical colleges, small engineering workshops and home enthusiasts across the world?

  2. Graham Cunningham

    Metric tonne?

    As opposed to some other kind of tonne?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Metric tonne?

      Tonny! Tonni! Tonné!

    2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Metric tonne?

      short (US) and long (UK) tons for example

      1. mr.K

        Re: Metric tonne?

        I think the point is that tonne is the name for metric ton. There is no short or long tonne, as tonne (with the additionally -ne) is exclusively used for the metric ton. Thus speaking of metric tonne is somewhat similar to "IT-technology".

        I did not know this before reading the comment. The comments in this lesbian on-line magazine is making me learn things all the time.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you arguing with the 'metric' or the 'ne'? Given the space industries ability to confuse imperial and metric units, with resulting mars-shaking kabooms, avoiding confusion with short tons or long tons is probably sensible in any case.

    1. Dave559 Silver badge

      But nobody, apart from Americans, and a decreasing number of people approximately the age of Prof. Hubert Farnsworth, is more than even vaguely aware of the existence of "short tons" or "long tons" (aww, bless them), and, including Scottish engineers, certainly won't be using them in any kind of engineering, or even everyday, capacity (and you would hope that NASA and its silly contractors would have learned a hard and expensive lesson from that particular mistake).

      "Tonne" with a "ne" is obviously metric, and as the modern default value of a unit with that sort of name, it's the non-metric tons (assorted flavours) that need an adjective, to clarify which one of those is meant, where used.

      1. Red Ted

        NASA and the Metric System

        I was pleased to hear all the measurements in the recent Mars landing decent commentary were all read out in metric units.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    All these exciting new technologies!

    It's not rocket science... oh, wait...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: All these exciting new technologies!

      Rocket science is easy.

      Rocket ENGINEERING on the other hand.... That's very VERY difficult

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: All these exciting new technologies!

        OK, so you're a rocket scientist

        That don't impress me much

        So you got the brain but have you got the touch?

        As confirmed by Shania Twain.

    2. MarkSitkowski

      Re: All these exciting new technologies!

      Not so new.

      There's a company in China that's been 3D printing houses and apartment buildings out of concrete for about a year or so. Surprisingly, the quality of the finish is about as good as that of traditional (concrete) buildings.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    What KIND of printer?

    Stratasys? Proto Labs? 3D Systems? Prusa?

    You'd think they'd want to crow about a high profile win, and get their brand out there.

    I do have to say a 24hr print time for something that big is pretty incredible.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What KIND of printer?

      In the spirit of "Man Bites Dog" newspaper headlines, I'm waiting for day when we hear about a space company that sends a rocket up to retrieve something that has been 3D printed in space (where zero gravity enables printing of shapes not possible on Earth).

      1. JassMan

        Re: What KIND of printer? @2+2=5

        Even in space you'll need supports. Otherwise all the independent bits will float away while they are being printed. A lot of printer technologies won't work at all without gravity.

  6. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Just don't mix up the nylon and aluminium reels.

  7. John Sager

    The intention is that weaknesses will be eliminated by doing away with welds and joining

    Metal 3d printing is all weld, though I suppose pendants might quibble about sintering.

    1. BenM 29 Silver badge

      and another thing...

      Back in the day, I was at the place where they designed the 3D-Printed Commonwealth Games torch...

      The designer had to be particularly careful about orientation of the print becasue of shear lines in the final product... I assume they have sorted those problems for the rocket engine printer otherwise, given the 3D nature of the curves in and around a combustion chamber/Turbo Pump, IMHO a world of RUD awaits the first few off the line!

  8. PhilipN Silver badge

    Launch from where?

    Don't we have any friendly members of the Commonwealth on the Equator?

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