Oerlikon AM, Pfäffikon, Switzerland, and Airbus, headquartered in Occitanie, France, have signed a €3.8 million contract for the Additive Manufacturing of complex antenna clusters used in a series of communication satellites. This announcement is said to mark an important milestone in the ten-year collaboration between the companies, which has seen the development of a number of components for space applications, several of which are already in orbit.
The aluminium antenna clusters measure approximately 400 x 400 x 400 mm and are manufactured using Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) Additive Manufacturing. They are reportedly part of next-generation communication satellites that will transmit and receive communication and/or data signals in K-band frequency.
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“To create a final product of excellent quality, technical cooperation and understanding each other’s needs and requirements is fundamental for a well-coordinated design and manufacturing process – not only in rapid prototyping, but even more so in serial production,” stated Michael Kilian, R&D Manager for Additive Manufacturing of RF Space Components, Airbus.
Additive Manufacturing has enabled benefits such as weight reduction and shortened lead times; an antenna cluster could reportedly be reduced from six months to just a few weeks compared to conventional manufacturing.
“The key success factor is the specific AM machine setup, which allows the family of geometries to be reproduced with the required accuracy and the process to be indefinitely repeated. Thus, we met the high accuracy and quality requirements of Airbus, and consequently the specified European Space Agency (ESA) standards for satellites,” added Hendrik Alfter, Managing Director, Oerlikon AM. “We are pleased that the cooperation has resulted in a €3.8 million multi-year contract for the supply of antenna clusters.”
In addition to aluminium Additive Manufacturing, the two parties have jointly fine-tuned the post processing as a key part of the process development. As an all-round service provider, Oerlikon AM reportedly offers Airbus Additive Manufacturing, post processing and surface finish optimisation for radio frequency performance, precision computer numerical control milling, quality assurance, ultrasonic cleaning, assembly, and wire integration, as well as customised logistics.