Bike3Dthe Silicon Valley-based metal additive manufacturing (AM) platform manufacturer, announced that the company has sold both a Sapphire and a Sapphire XC to Hermeus, a hypersonic aircraft startup based in Atlanta, Georgia. The original Sapphire and large-format, high-volume XC will be used to manufacture parts for Hermeus’ Chimera engine and Quarterhorse aircraft.
Founded in 2018 to develop hypersonic commercial and defense aircraft, Hermeus received $100 million in its Series B funding earlier this year. The company has been backed by a series of government agencies, including the Aviation and Nasaand has ties to established aerospace and defense giants such as Raytheon. ‘Hypersonic’ is used to refer to all speeds above Mach 5which is about five times the speed of sound.
Velo3D’s Sapphire was also recently used for preliminary hypersonic experiments by the Slabaugh Group research team at Zucrow Laboratories at Purdue University. With the initial phase of the study having been successful in part thanks to Velo3D, the Slabaugh group plans to begin the full experiment this fall.
As with the aerospace sector in general, the appeal of metal AM for hypersonic applications is not just the ability to create parts with unique and complex geometries, but also the ability to do so quickly. Additionally, with hypersonics, the increased capability that AM facilitates for the use of specialty metals for stronger parts, which are more corrosion resistant, takes on added importance.
Presumably, shorter lead times for stronger parts will be essential for Hermeus to meet the 2023 deadline for the first flight of the Quarterhorse, an autonomous aircraft. Additionally, Hermeus expects the Quarterhorse to be named the world’s fastest aircraft when it test flies next year. Given the difficulties in meeting production deadlines that even conventional aerospace manufacturers have faced, Hermeus’ strategy of producing as many parts as possible in-house seems like a smart play.
Given all of this, the hypersonic sector is just as important to the aerospace industry as a whole for testing new supply chain management techniques as it is for testing new technologies. Regardless of the ultimate practicality of hypersonic flight, it seems to be a useful sandbox for all sorts of next-generation production systems, as well as a stimulus for investment in new hardware and materials.
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