Purdue University Graduate School
2021.10.14 Julie Bach thesis Draft 6.pdf (2.5 MB)

Modification of Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant to Tailor Pressure Output Through Additively Manufactured Grain Geometries

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posted on 2021-11-22, 15:14 authored by Julie Suzanne BachJulie Suzanne Bach
The new technique of Vibration-Assisted 3D Printing (VAP) offers significant potential for leveraging the geometric flexibility of additive manufacturing (AM) into the realm of solid energetics. The first part of this work compares the print capabilities of a custom-made VAP printer to those of an established commercial direct-write printer using a polymer clay. Characterization tests were conducted and a variety of other shapes were printed comparing the two methods in their turning quality, feature resolution, unsupported overhang angle, negative space feature construction, and less-than-fully-dense self-supported 3D lattices. The porosity and regularity of the printed lattices were characterized using X-ray microtomography (MicroCT) scans. The quality of the shapes was compared using statistical methods and a MATLAB edge-finding code. The results show that the VAP printer can manufacture parts of superior resolution than the commercial printer, due to its ability to extrude highly viscous material through a smaller nozzle diameter. The VAP print speeds were also found to be as high as twenty times higher than those of the direct write printer.
Following up on this work, a second study explored the possibility of modifying grain geometry through variation of printed infill design using an ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP). In the propellant formulation, a polymer that cures under ultra-violet (UV) light was used instead of the more common hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). Although this formulation is a less-effective fuel than HTPB, its use enables layer-by-layer curing for improved structural strength during printing. Using VAP, cylindrical propellant charges were prepared using a gyroidal infill design with a range of internal porosities (infill amounts). Some additional propellant grains were prepared with both vertical and concentric layering of different infill amounts. These grains were then burned beginning at atmospheric pressure in a constant-volume Parr cell to measure the resulting pressure output. Analysis of the pressure trace data shows that a less-dense infill increases the maximum pressurization rate, due to the presence of small voids spaced roughly uniformly throughout the grain that increase the burning surface area. We show that additive manufacturing-based propellant grain modification can be used to tailor the pressure-time trace through adjustment of the number and size of small voids. Specifically, this study shows that, using a graded functional geometry, the duration of gas generation can be controlled. This work represents a preliminary effort to explore the possibilities to propellant
manufacture offered by additive manufacturing and to begin to address the challenges inherent in making it practical.




Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Steven F. Son

Additional Committee Member 2

Jeffrey Rhoads

Additional Committee Member 3

Timothee Pourpoint

Additional Committee Member 4

Monique McClain