3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, has announced a collaboration with Fleet Space Technologies, Beverley, Australia, which has led to the production of RF patch antennas for use on Fleet’s Alpha satellite constellation. The two companies architected a complete Additive Manufacturing solution – including process development and bridge production of a DMP Flex 350 – enabling the collaboration to move from Fleet Space’s original RF patch design to small batch production in three weeks.
On the basis of this, Fleet Space Technologies is bringing a DMP Flex 350 Additive Manufacturing machine into service at their headquarters in order to move production of its patch antennas in house. The machine 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. The team knew that the only way the geometry of this patch antenna design could be realised is through Additive Manufacturing.
“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,” stated 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.”
3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) developed Additive Manufacturing processes to produce the antenna on its DMP Flex 350 machine in two different materials – LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2. The vacuum chamber architecture of the DMP Flex 350, which maintains a low oxygen environment (<25 ppm), was said to be critical. Not only is argon gas consumption heavily reduced, but the vacuum chamber architecture also produces a good surface finish with feature detail intended to minimise signal losses.
The team is able to achieve fast and cost-effective production of 55 RF patch antennas per build on the DMP Flex 350. Having the DMP Flex 350 solution onsite will 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 additive manufacturing application development,” added Dr Michael Shepard, vice president, aerospace & defence 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 in house in a very short amount of time.”