NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been known for its great accomplishments in technology and space travel. However, recently NASA has pushed the envelope of continuous improvement just a little further by using additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) to design and create a rocket jet injector. Rocket jet injectors are a critical component within nearly all rocket engines. The use of this type of technology within the field of space travel has the potential to shave millions of dollars off the costs associated with designing and building rockets and spacecraft. According to the NASA.gov website:
“NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington. “3-D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.”
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This is simply amazing and the cost and time savings are monumental. Technology has enabled people to literally make something out of nothing at a fraction of the cost. When referring to the cost and time savings associated with printing the rocket injector, NASA.com states:
“This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost.”
This is just an example of how continuous improvement is alive and well in nearly every business sector imaginable. For instance, let’s discuss the evolution of recorded music through continuous improvement. Not so long ago vinyl records were the main way to purchase music, then came 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, and now we simply stream music or download MP3s to our smartphones or other electronic devices. I cannot even imagine having to purchase music on a cassette tape again. Cassette tapes, although small and compact were not very user friendly. For instance, to find a particular song on a cassette tape you would have to fast forward or rewind to find the song. Then if you wanted to find another song in a different area of the tape you would have to manipulate the tape again by rewinding or fast forwarding to locate it. Heck, sometimes you would even have to take the tape out and flip it over to the other side to find a particular song. People spent more time finding the songs they wanted to listen to than actually listening to the desired songs. Continuous improvement strives to make things faster, easier, more convenient, more cost effective, and most importantly BETTER.
Continuous improvement provides hope for the future in virtually every field from industrial manufacturing to healthcare. With these new breakthroughs in additive manufacturing or 3D printing who knows what could be next, maybe we will start to print furniture or even cars or houses. The possibilities are virtually endless with the help of continuous improvement.
Resource: nasa.gov – NASA, Industry Test Additively Manufactured Rocket Engine Injector, 11. July 2013