Redesigning a reaction control thruster for metal-based additive manufacturing: A case study in design for additive manufacturing

Nicholas Alexander Meisel, Matthew R. Woods, Timothy William Simpson, Corey J. Dickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Prior research has shown that powder-bed fusion (PBF) additive manufacturing (AM) can be used to make functional, end-use components from powdered metallic alloys, such as InconelVR 718 superalloy. However, these end-use components and products are often based on designs developed for more traditional subtractive manufacturing processes and do not take advantage of the unique design freedoms afforded by AM. In this paper, we present a case study involving the redesign of NASA's existing "pencil" thruster used for spacecraft attitude control. The initial pencil thruster was designed for and manufactured using traditional subtractive methods. The main focus in this paper is to (a) identify the need for and use of both opportunistic and restrictive design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) concepts and considerations in redesigning the thruster for fabrication with PBF AM and (b) compare the resulting DfAM thruster with a parallel development effort redesigning the original thruster to be manufactured more effectively using subtractive manufacturing processes. The results from this case study show how developing end-use AM components using specific DfAM guidelines can significantly reduce manufacturing time and costs while enabling new and novel design geometries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100903
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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