Startup with Purdue plans to use 3-D printers

Tri-D Dynamics LLC co-founders Deepak Atyam (l) and Alexander Finch work with components and a diagram of one of their engines. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Oren Darling)

A startup with Purdue ties plans to use 3-D printers as well as other additive manufacturing processes to make future rocket engines that show promise in being faster and less expensive to produce than traditional methods. Tri-D Dynamics LLC, a startup co-founded by Purdue graduate students, wants to tap into the emerging market of small satellites by using a 3-D printer to create small rocket engines.

“Utilizing hybrid additive manufacturing techniques to produce a liquid rocket with 2,500 to 5,000 pounds of thrust takes from maybe two days to a couple of weeks,” said Tri-D co-founder Alexander Finch, who is scheduled to receive his master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics this May. “Engines can be printed as one complete unit or as a series of components to be assembled.”

“Typically you would need up to two machinists in addition to welders quality assurance personnel, testing personnel, and possibly more depending on complexity of the engine,” said co-founder Deepak Atyam, who received a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “With 3-D printers, ideally you will only need one or two people.”

Finch and Atyam plan to market their technology to companies and governments launching small satellites, or “smallsats,” a new breed of satellites of low mass and size launched by smaller rockets. Tri-D Dynamic’s plan is for the launch vehicles to employ clusters of their engines positioned on the vehicle to lift the payload. The more engines used, the larger the payload capacity.