Engineers from NASA and universities have been working together to test hybrid 3D printed circuits close to the Kármán line. Suborbital Technology Experiment Carrier-9, or (SubTEC-9), was a sounding rocket mission that demonstrated space readiness on April 25. The rocket was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and flew to an altitude of about 174 kilometers (108 miles) for a few minutes before it returned to Earth under the power of a parachute.
During the brief flight, data was transferred to the ground through humidity and electrical sensors printed on two connected panels and the payload door. The mission was successful, and it may help scientists and engineers develop more efficient designs for future, smaller spacecraft.
Dr. Margaret Samuels, an electronics engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Beth Paquette, an aeronautical engineer at Goddard, co-led the experiment of 3D printed circuits. “The uniqueness of this technology is being able to print a sensor actually where you need it,” Dr. Samuels said. The biggest advantage is that it helps you conserve room. Traces as thin as 30 microns, or roughly half the width of a human hair, may be printed on three-dimensional surfaces with this method for 3D printed circuits. Possible additional advantages for antennas and RF uses.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed the humidity-sensing printing ink, and the University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Physical Sciences (LPS) developed the circuits, all in coordination with Drs. Samuels and Paquette.
Wallops electronics engineer Brian Banks said that the 3D printed circuits offer a new basis for constructing compact spacecraft, applicable to Earth-based and interplanetary missions.
The experiment around 3D Printed Circuits in Space
Printed on the bay door and two adjacent panels were temperature and humidity sensors used extensively in the studies. Everything of the SubTEC9 rocket was being monitored via sensors that sent data back to control. The experiments were deemed a success by NASA’s team, demonstrating the space-ready status of printed electronic technology and its potential to improve the efficiency of payloads for future Earth-orbiting and interplanetary missions.
Engineer Jason Fleischer from the University of Maryland’s Lab of Physical Sciences printed the inks and circuits developed by Pauette’s and Samuels’ colleagues at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL (LPS). The traces could be printed on any three-dimensional surface and measured around 30 m in width (about half the width of a human hair). The team’s goal is to produce more precise antenna technology by boosting the transmit and receive angles of a person in space by replacing standard circuits with 3D printed circuits, which will reduce the amount of space required for onboard electronics.
The ability to print a sensor precisely where it is needed sets this technology apart. It helps you save room. Traces as thin as 30 microns, or roughly half the width of a human hair, may be printed on three-dimensional surfaces with this method. There are a plethora of antenna and RF uses that may benefit from this. -Margaret Samuels, electronics engineer for NASA
It’s fascinating to see how 3D printing is being investigated for use in space travel. The first space-bound 3D printed circuit was revealed just two years ago by L3Harris, and this trend continues with NASA’s newest mission. Seeing comparable outcomes to this experiment for 3D printed circuits bodes well for the future of this study and the continued usage of this technology in the field.
About Manufactur3D: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Indian Scenario page for more updates on 3D Printing News from India. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.