3D Systems announced a new collaboration with Fleet Space Technologies, the leader in NanoSatellite Digital Beamforming for Low Power Wide Area Networks, to architect a complete 3D printed metal antenna production solution that will allow companies to transition from Fleet Space’s existing RF patch design to small batch production in just three weeks.
Fleet Space created innovative RF patch antennas for use on their Alpha satellite constellation using 3D Systems’ DMP Flex 350 3D printing technology.
Enabling 3D Printed Metal Antenna production
Fleet Space Technologies’ unique design, combined with the expertise of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG), enabled them to architect a complete 3D printed metal antenna production solution.
Fleet Space Technologies is installing a DMP Flex 350 printer at its headquarters in Beverley, Adelaide, allowing the company to produce patch antennas in-house. The printer will be used to produce RF patch antennas for each of the Alpha satellites in a constellation in low earth orbit as part of Fleet Space Technologies’ ExoSphere initiative for environmentally friendly mining exploration.
The antenna was designed by Fleet Space Technologies’ engineering team to meet size, weight, and performance requirements while minimizing the need for post-processing. The team realized that the only way to realize the geometry of this patch antenna design was through additive manufacturing.
The Application Innovation Group (AIG) of 3D Systems developed print processes for producing the antenna on its DMP Flex 350 printer in two different materials: LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2. The DMP Flex 350’s unique vacuum chamber architecture, which maintains a low oxygen environment (25 ppm), was critical. Not only does the vacuum chamber architecture significantly reduce argon gas consumption, but it also produces a good surface finish with fine feature detail, which minimizes signal losses.
Furthermore, the DMP Flex 350 comes with 3DXpert® software, which supports every step of the additive manufacturing workflow, from design to post-processing, allowing for a quick and efficient transition from a 3D model to successfully printed parts. On the DMP Flex 350, the team is able to produce 55 RF patch antennas in a timely and cost-effective manner. With the DMP Flex 350 solution on-site, Fleet Space Technologies will be able to additively manufacture structural components that were previously unavailable.
Dr. Michael Shepard, vice president, aerospace & defence segment, 3D Systems said, “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. 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.”– Flavia Tata Nardini, founder and CEO, Fleet Space Technologies
Nardini continued, “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 3D printed metal antenna production solution 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.”
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