NASA aerospace engineer Jason Budinoff plans to construct an imaging telescope primarily with 3D printed parts. The telescope, due next month, would have almost all of its parts 3D printed, each in one piece, and will measure only about two inches in length. While the lenses and mirrors are still made traditionally, Budinoff hopes to print those one day soon, too.
“This is a pathfinder,” Budinoff said. “When we build telescopes for science instruments, it usually involves hundreds of pieces. These components are complex and very expensive to build. But with 3-D printing, we can reduce the overall number of parts and make them with nearly arbitrary geometries. We’re not limited by traditional mill- and lathe-fabrication operations.”
There are four 3D printed parts in Budinoff’s telescope, each replacing anywhere from 20-40 conventional parts. Additionally, the parts are more complex, and able to perform better because of the advantages additive manufacturing has over traditional methods.
Budinoff is also working on a larger 14-inch dual channel telescope, and looking into new materials such as invar alloy, made of iron and nickel.
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