3D Systems has announced it will join forces with Fleet Space Technologies, to produce innovative RF patch antennas for use on their Alpha satellite constellation.
The companies aim to combine Fleet Space Technologies’ unique design along with the expertise of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group, to architect a complete additive manufacturing solution, which should include process development and bridge production on its DMP Flex 350.
This should enable the two companies to move from Fleet Space’s existing RF patch design to small batch production in just three weeks.
Fleet Space Technologies said it is bringing a DMP Flex 350 printer into service at its headquarters in Beverley, Adelaide, allowing the company to bring production of its patch antennas in-house.
The printer will be used to create RF patch antennas for each of the Alpha satellites operating in a constellation in low earth orbit as part of Fleet Space Technologies’ ExoSphere initiative, for mining exploration with minimal environmental impact.
Fleet Space Technologies’ engineering team designed the antenna to meet size, weight, and performance requirements while minimising the need for post-processing.
Aware that the geometry of this patch antenna design could be realised is through AM, Fleet Space Technology approaches 3D Systems’ AIG, which developed print processes to produce them on its DMP Flex 350 printer in two different materials – LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2.
The two companies said that the unique vacuum chamber architecture of the DMP Flex 350, which maintains a low oxygen environment (<25 ppm), was critical.
Not only because argon gas consumption is heavily reduced, but also because the vacuum chamber architecture is able to produce a good surface finish with fine feature detail which minimises signal losses.
Additionally, the DMP Flex 350 should include 3DXpert software, which should support every step of the AM workflow from design to post-processing, from transition from a 3D model quickly and efficiently to successfully printed parts.
The team can now achieve fast and cost-effective production of 55 RF patch antennas per build on the DMP Flex 350.
Having the DMP Flex 350 solution on-site should also provide Fleet Space Technologies with the ability to additively manufacture structural components that were not previously available.
“Our work with Fleet Space Technologies is yet another example of how 3D Systems helps our aerospace customers accelerate innovation and de-risk their AM application development,” said Michael Shepard, 3D Systems VP of aerospace and defence.
“We do this by partnering with customers to provide an application solution with the right hardware, materials, software, and services for their needs. In this case, we’ve been able to help Fleet Space Technologies bring a qualified production process for their satellite hardware in-house in a very short amount of time.”
“Fleet’s Alpha constellation represents a significant leap forward in our mission to unlock the potential of truly global connectivity, in doing so creating global benefits for applications like making the search for critical minerals more sustainable and viable,” said Fleet Space Technologies CEO Flavia Tata Nardini.
“To achieve this, we constantly strive to find more ways to manufacture our technology to deliver exceptional quality at scale and in a way that is economically viable. Together with 3D Systems’ AIG, we are unlocking the remarkable potential of AM at our world-class facility in Adelaide, South Australia.”
“This technology will enable our people to create the production processes that will deliver on Fleet’s ambition to launch more than 140 low earth orbit satellites in the Alpha constellation.”