3D Systems, Fleet Space Technologies’ patch antennas for next generation satellites
3D Systems will collaborate with Fleet Space Technologies to produce of innovative RF patch antennas for use on their Alpha satellite constellation. Fleet Space Technologies’ unique design and the expertise of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) allowed them to architect a complete additive manufacturing (AM) solution including process development and bridge production on its DMP Flex 350 and enabling them to move from Fleet Space’s existing RF patch design to small batch production in just three weeks. Fleet Space Technologies is bringing a DMP Flex 350 printer into service at their headquarters in Beverley, Adelaide to bring production of its patch antennas in-house. The printer will 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 minimizing the need for post-processing. The team knew the only way the geometry of this patch antenna design could be realized is through AM. 3D Systems’ AIG developed print processes to produce the antenna on its DMP Flex 350 printer in two different materials - LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2. The unique vacuum chamber architecture of the DMP Flex 350 maintaining a low oxygen environment (<25 ppm) was critical. Argon gas consumption heavily reduced and the vacuum chamber architecture produces a good surface finish with fine feature detail which minimizes signal losses. Additionally, the DMP Flex 350 also includes 3DXpert software supporting every step of the AM workflow from design to post-processing, to transition from a 3D model quickly and efficiently to successfully printed parts. The team can 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 will also provide Fleet Space Technologies with the ability to additively manufacture structural components 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 additive manufacturing application development,” said Dr. Michael Shepard, vice president, aerospace & defense segment, 3D Systems. “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 inhouse 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 Flavia Tata Nardini, founder and CEO, Fleet Space Technologies. “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 additive manufacturing 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.”