Interview: Relativity CEO Tim Ellis on 3D printing rocket ships

Relativity Space pushes the limits of 3D printing to build rockets, but CEO Tim Ellis sees his company’s influence reaching far beyond the space industry.

Ellis stated that “We are reinventing the underpinnings not only of building rockets but also the entire stack of how to design, develop and build a company.”

Ellis stated that 3D printing is an entirely new technology stack in aerospace. He said that it was a completely new tech stack.

Since its inception five years ago, the Long Beach, California-based company has seen rapid growth. The company is now valued at $2.3 billion by investors, including Tiger Global Management and Fidelity. Jared Leto, Baillie Goford, Baillie Gifford, and Mark Cuban.

The company is now working on its first rocket, which it hopes to launch into orbit by the end of this year.

Ellis stated that the company is still on time for its launch from Cape Canaveral later this year. He spoke to CNBC’s TechCheck on Thursday.

Relativity also revealed plans to build Terran R, a more giant and more reusable rocket, in February. It is designed to challenge the Falcon 9 rocket, which has been the mainstay of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Relativity already boasts the most prominent 3D printers globally, producing a single piece up to 32 feet high. Ellis claims that 95% of Terran 1’s parts are 3D printed. This makes the rocket much more superficial than traditional rockets. Relativity claims that its process is more straightforward and will eventually allow for missiles on the launchpad in less than 60 days.

Ellis stated that “Relativity has created our 3D printers… but that’s not the most innovative thing.” “I believe the most innovative thing Relativity does is that we are the first 3D-printing company to produce end products. We don’t just build the printer; we sell it. And we don’t just design the product and buy printers from other companies – we integrate both.

Ellis believes that 3D printers built by companies aren’t selling machines to customers. “You’re selling a completely new philosophy about manufacturing.”

Ellis stated, “You are telling your customer to throw away all your existing factory, all your designs, and development, and let go of half of your team so that you can hire a new team who understands how 3D printing factories work.”

Ellis is both the 3D printer creator and the user of its products. He sees Relativity taking 3D printing from its infancy to what, he believes, will be the most disruptive technology in human history for aerospace and possibly other manufacturing industries.

Like Musk, Ellis keeps Relativity’s focus on “humanity’s multi-planetary future.”

Ellis stated that “we need to inspire dozens or hundreds of companies to pursue making [a continuous human presence] Mars a reality.” “We are talking about replicating an entire globe – this is a huge undertaking.”

Ellis says that additive manufacturing is “invariably required” to create an industrial base for Mars.

Ellis stated that “that future was never going be possible unless someone created it” and that Relativity is currently “on the cutting edge” of building the future for humanity.

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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