The World’s Fastest Aircraft Uses 3D-printed Parts to Optimize Performance

Hypersonic aircraft startup Hermeus acquired Sapphire printers from Velo3D in its quest to build the world’s fastest aircraft. The 3D printers, an original Sapphire and a large-format Sapphire XC, will make parts for the company’s Chimera engine and its Quarterhorse aircraft. The printers will also be calibrated for Inconel 718.

Hermeus CTO Glenn Case said the acquisition aligns with the company’s intent to vertically integrate production. Case added that additive technology would help consolidate components, minimize external dependencies, increase performance, and reduce aircraft weight.

Hermeus is aiming for the Quarterhorse aircraft, which is named after a horse breed known for its ability to sprint short distances, to reach a top speed of Mach 5 at a cruising altitude of 95,000 feet. Quarterhorse will be autonomous or remotely piloted. The company also hopes to make the aircraft fully reusable.

The high Mach speeds will be made possible by the turbine-based combined cycle engine, the Chimera engine.

While Hermeus is barely four years old, it has earned some $130 million in funding, including support from a Raytheon Technologies venture capital group, the U.S. Air Force, and a $100 million Series B round. Government agencies such as NASA are also backing the startup.

Quarterhorse’s first flight is scheduled for next year. If successful, Hermeus said passengers would be able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 90 minutes. The company also said Mach 5 aircraft could create $4 trillion dollars of global economic growth annually.

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