3D Systems-Fleet Space Technologies Collaboration Yields Satellite Patch AntennasJuly 21, 2022
3D Systems announced a collaboration with Fleet Space Technologies leading to the production of RF patch antennas for use on Fleet Space Technologies’ Alpha satellite constellation. The reported combination of a unique antenna design with expertise provided by 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) allowed realization of a complete additive manufacturing (AM) solution that includes process development and bridge production on the 3D Systems DMP Flex 350 metal-AM machine. The combination reportedly enabled a move from Fleet Space’s existing RF patch design to small-batch production in only three weeks.
Now, Fleet Space Technologies is bringing a DMP Flex 350 machine into service at its Beverley, Australia, headquarters, allowing the company to provide inhouse production of its patch antennas. The printer will be used to create RF patch antennas for each of the Alpha satellites operating in a low-Earth-orbit constellation 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, while knowing that only AM could deliver the required geometry. AIG developed print processes to produce the antenna (pictured) on its DMP Flex 350 printer in two different materials, LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2. The unique vacuum chamber architecture of the AM machine, which maintains a low oxygen environment (<25 ppm), was critical, according to AIG officials. This reportedly greatly reduces argon-gas consumption while producing a good surface finish with fine feature detail to minimize antenna signal losses. The DMP Flex 350 also includes 3DXpert software to support each step of the AM workflow from design to post-processing, enabling rapid transition from a 3D model to successfully printed parts.
The team reportedly can achieve production of 55 RF patch antennas per build on the DMP Flex 350. And, having the AM machine onsite will provide Fleet Space Technologies with the ability to additively manufacture not-previously-available structural components.
“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 such as making the search for critical minerals more sustainable and viable,” says Flavia Tata Nardini, founder and CEO of 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 AM at our world-class facility in Adelaide. 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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