US economy to benefit from NASA investment in 3D-printable superalloy

a solid line of a white powdery substance falls from the top, just right of center, into a pile below on a black surface.
NASA superalloy GRX-810 will soon be available to aviation and space industry parts manufacturers as a result of new licensing agreements with four U.S. companies. (Image credit: NASA/Jef Janis)

NASA has invested in an innovative superalloy as part of its Technology Transfer Program, a program that allows technology built for missions to be utilized for other commercial purposes. 

The superalloy is known as GRX-810 and consists of a 3D-printable, high-temperature material that has the potential to make airplane equipment and spacecraft parts more heavy duty. Items built with this material will be able to withstand a wide range of severe conditions, including intense temperatures, both in the air and in space. As of now, the superalloy is licensed to four American companies; going forward, it could result in positive commercial dividends, NASA says, and benefit the overall U.S. economy.

The four companies selected are Carpenter Technology Corporation of Reading, Pennsylvania, Elementum 3D, Inc. of Erie, Colorado, Linde Advanced Material Technologies, Inc. of Indianapolis, and Powder Alloy Corporation of Loveland, Ohio. 

Related: 10 everyday NASA inventions and spin-offs you can find in your home

Through each co-exclusive license agreement, the companies will be able to create and sell GRX-810 to airplane and rocket equipment manufacturers, as well as other companies part of aviation or spaceflight supply chains. "NASA invests tax dollars into research that demonstrates direct benefit to the U.S. and transfers its technologies to industry by licensing its patents," Amy Hiltabidel, a licensing manager at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, said in a statement.

The NASA insignia is 3D printed using the GRX-810 superalloy.  (Image credit: NASA/Jordan Salkin)

GRX-810 was originally developed with aerospace equipment in mind, including liquid rocket engine injectors, combustors, turbines and hot-section components capable of enduring temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), according to a NASA release. The brains behind the superalloy are Tim Smith and Christopher Kantzos, both researchers at NASA Glenn. They say the design was drafted up by pairing computer modeling with a laser 3D-printing process to meld together, layer-by-layer, the metals involved.

"GRX-810 represents a new alloy design space and manufacturing technique that was impossible a few years ago," Smith said in the same statement.

This nickel-based alloy can handle more than most; it can withstand extreme heat, stress, and has double the amount of resistance from oxidation damage.

"Adoption of this alloy will lead to more sustainable aviation and space exploration," Dale Hopkins, deputy project manager of NASA's Transformational Tools and Technologies project, said in the statement. "This is because jet engine and rocket components made from GRX-810 will lower operating costs by lasting longer and improving overall fuel efficiency." 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Meredith Garofalo
Contributing Writer

Meredith is a regional Murrow award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and science/space correspondent. She most recently was a Freelance Meteorologist for NY 1 in New York City & the 19 First Alert Weather Team in Cleveland. A self-described "Rocket Girl," Meredith's personal and professional work has drawn recognition over the last decade, including the inaugural Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award, two special reports in News 12's Climate Special "Saving Our Shores" that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, multiple Fair Media Council Folio & Press Club of Long Island awards for meteorology & reporting, and a Long Island Business News & NYC TV Week "40 Under 40" Award.

  • JAS
    The article says nothings about these exclusive license agreements costing the companies involved any fees.
    Why should a select few receive the free largess of public investment? Why should NASA not be required to license the alloy's formula for a market-sensitive license fee to any US takers? After all, it's the US public footing the bill, and it's the commercial world that would reap the direct benefits, not individual tax-payers.
    In the early days of aviation, NASA's predecessor, did the pure research to solve many of the then outstanding theoretical unknowns regarding the physics of flight, and made that knowledge freely available when a commercial aviation sector barely existed. However, now we do have an existing and well-established aviation and aerospace sector, and there’s no reason why they can’t afford a valuable product such as this that is the result of applied research, not pure research. There’s no reason to give it away for free.
    Some NASA officials need to be removed from their ivory tower with a well-aimed kick to the fundament.
  • billslugg
    Any organization can license any NASA technology. They can get an exclusive license, partially exclusive, or non-exclusive. All transfers involve fees and royalties. Each one is individually negotiated.