Another major parts arrival came in to AIS recently. These are the first set of new 3D printed thruster casings are in for the ILIS1 ionic liquid ion source electrospray thruster. I will be starting to experiment with a couple of different options, both in terms of tolerancing and vacuum compatibility. I purchased two copies of two different types of materials and prints for the first tests – FDM printed Ultem 1010 (top) and SLA printed Accura 48HTR (bottom). While there were some slight tolerancing issue with the emitter/reservoir bore for the Ultem print, which will have to be sanded out a bit, the 48HTR ended up coming out perfect!
I also had the chance to test fit one of the porous glass ion emitters in the 48HTR print (the throw-away emitter that ended up being machined out of spec) Fits perfectly! Like a glove. A glove made of ion engine.
By embracing conventional CNC machining for the emitters as well as technologies like laser cutting and now 3D printing for critical thruster parts, development of this high advanced and normally costly thruster technology has become incredibly rapid and affordable. AIS is working to break boundaries in electric propulsion with approaches that will make advanced ion and plasma propulsion affordable and accessible for any nanosatellite team!