Last week we told you that the U.S. Navy has picked Raytheon to help them develop new hypersonic missiles.

The University of Arizona’s engineering department is playing a big role in that development, using a 3-D printer to make parts forof all thingshypersonic missiles.

If we want to make a component like this out of metal and put that in an jet engine, it’s got to really withstand high temperatures, says Assistant Professor of Material Science Engineering Andrew Wessman.

Using a 3D printer to make metal parts is nothing new, but the specific needs of hypersonic technology are a little more demanding.

Right now we are able to print materials like nickle super alloys that are good up to a temperature of about 1000 degrees Celsius at most, but for hypersonic applications we need to go hotter.

That’s what the university’s College of Engineering is working on now, through a $1.2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research.

Thats where we need to do a lot more research, coming up with these new materials that can work at these temperatures of 15 – 1600 degrees Centigrade, Wessman says.

We can understand things about how a material preforms by looking at the structure at a microscopic scale.

That research will be critical to the development of hypersonicsspecifically the missiles Raytheon will be working on.

We get them in the condition that they need to be integrated into a larger system like a missile or an aircraft or something like that, says Wessman.

We’re working a lot with Raytheon, thats developing a lot of this technology for both their civilian applicationsjet engines and things like thatbut also military applications for their missile and defense systems.

Wessman and other at the College of Engineering are hoping this project attracts more students to the school. Incoming freshman can expect to get hands-on experience as early as their first year.

Hypersonics have really been a focus area for us at the College of Engineering, Wessman told me. We are going to use this type of equipment to train students, let them understand this technology.

It’s important experience for students who want real-world engineering experience before entering the workforce.

When people think about where they want to go to college, we can really start to bring in students interested in this stuff, says Wessman.

The high demand for jobs in the field of material science and engineering means a promising future not only for the working relationship between the university and Raytheonthe two largest employers in Tucsonbut for the students themselves once they graduate.