LONG BEACH, Calif. — Virgin Orbit aims to blaze a trail on the final frontier, but in order to do that, it has had to push into new frontiers on the factory floor.
Case in point: The Lasertec 4300 3D additive-subtractive hybrid machine that’s turning out rocket parts at Virgin Orbit’s 180,000-square-foot manufacturing facility here in Long Beach.
Like a 3-D printer, the room-sized machine builds up a component from the ground up, using laser light to fuse metal powder into each layer. But along each step of the way, the part is fine-tuned by shaving off the excess bits.
“It is literally the first of its kind in operation with a commercial company,” Andrew Duggleby, a manufacturing manager at Virgin Orbit, said as he worked on the combustion chamber for one of Virgin Orbit’s Newton rocket engines.