A group of students known as the MIT Rocket Team has successfully fired a fully 3D printed rocket.

In a post written by the group’s Charlie Garcia, the team explain the plastic rocket motor “achieved supersonic flow and produced thrust.” The MIT Rocket Team is an “independent student group” focusing on rocket related projects and has been established for over 14 years.

3D printed rockets

To create the rocket, which has only two parts, the team used a Markforged Mark Two 3D printer and Onyx Nylon material. Developed by Markforged, the nylon material is combined with micro-carbon fibers for added strength and heat resistance.

Heat resistance was definitely necessary in this case as the team explained the rocket survived initial testing with only slight erosion of the rockets’s throat. So much so, the team were able to fire the rocket again, although without quite the same effect. US researchers have recently explored the thermal conductivity of composite plastic filaments like this one.

Using a Markforged Mark Two showcases the potential of lower-priced 3D printers in comparison to industrial metal 3D printers used by large-scale rocket companies like Aerojet Rocketdyne. For this reason, the Markforged Mark Two has been nominated by our readers for a 3D Printing Industry Award.

The plastic rocket being fired. Photo via MIT Rocket Team.

The plastic rocket being fired. Photo via MIT Rocket Team.

Moving into metal?

In terms of future plans, the MIT Rocket Team hope “to explore larger motors, more resilient motors, and potentially even flight hardware!” Meaning the group may be encouraged by recent news regarding Desktop Metal and Markforged. The two companies are both releasing metal FDM 3D printers this year at considerably lower prices than current industrial metal printers.

Desktop Metal this week finally revealed the 3D printer it has been working on, while Markforged has detailed plans to build a 3D printer farm with its upcoming Metal X 3D printer.

Remember to vote in the 3D Printing Industry Awards which takes place next month in London. 

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Featured image shows the 3D printed rocket being fired. Photo via MIT Rocket Team. 

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