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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 02:30 AM

Massive, AI-Powered Robots Are 3D-Printing Entire Rockets

10.14.2019 07:00 AM

Relativity Space may have the biggest metal 3D printers in the world, and they're cranking out parts to reinvent the rocket industry here—and on Mars.



To make a 3D-printable rocket, Relativity Space simplified the design of many components, including the engine.
PHOTOGRAPH: RELATIVITY

For a factory where robots toil around the clock to build a rocket with almost no human labor, the sound of grunts echoing across the parking lot make for a jarring contrast.

“That’s Keanu Reeves’ stunt gym,” says Tim Ellis, the chief executive and cofounder of Relativity Space, a startup that wants to combine 3D printing and artificial intelligence to do for the rocket what Henry Ford did for the automobile. As we walk among the robots occupying Relativity’s factory, he points out the just-completed upper stage of the company’s rocket, which will soon be shipped to Mississippi for its first tests. Across the way, he says, gesturing to the outside world, is a recording studio run by Snoop Dogg.

Neither of those A-listers have paid a visit to Relativity’s rocket factory, but the presence of these unlikely neighbors seems to underscore the company’s main talking point: It can make rockets anywhere. In an ideal cosmos, though, its neighbors will be even more alien than Snoop Dogg. Relativity wants to not just build rockets, but to build them on Mars. How exactly? The answer, says Ellis, is robots—lots of them.

Roll up the loading bay doors at Relativity’s Los Angeles headquarters and you’ll find four of the largest metal 3D printers in the world, churning out rocket parts day and night. The latest model of the company’s proprietary printer, dubbed Stargate, stands 30 feet tall and has two massive robotic arms that protrude like tentacles from the machine. The Stargate printers will manufacture about 95 percent, by mass, of Relativity’s first rocket, named Terran-1. The only parts that won’t be printed are the electronics, cables, and a handful of moving parts and rubber gaskets.

More:
https://www.wired.com/story/massive-ai-powered-robots-are-3d-printing-entire-rockets/

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