NASA has a vested interest in 3D printing. It's already investigating food-based 3D printers, and the idea of building satellites in space with the technology. Now it's working on 3D printed rocket parts.
Over the summer, NASA has been testing a 3D printed rocket injector that could withstand the extreme heat of burning rocket fuel. In a test at the end of June, they fired the rocket and found that the 3D printed rocket parts performed admirably.
Here's what NASA has to say about it:
This video gives you a blazing view of the one of the first tests of a 3-D printed rocket injector on June 27, 2013, in Test Stand 115 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Propulsion engineers used the tests to compare the performance of a 3-D printed rocket injector to an injector made with multiple parts and traditional welds. During the extreme temperatures and pressures of the hot firing, the 3-D printed part performed as well as the traditionally manufactured part. This test included a 3-D printed liner.
Of course, there's a lot of work to be done before NASA can use 3D printed parts on actual spacecraft. Even so, this breakthrough represents a way for the space agency to cheaply make sophisticated parts. It should also cut down on the time required to reiterate rocket design.[h/t: Fabbaloo Blog]