Fleet Space Technologies Leverages 3D Printing Technology and 3D Systems Expertise to Produce RF Patch Antennas

You remember Fleet Space Technologies ? The space company which recently announced that it has made contact with its 12-kilogram satellite successfully launched into orbit. As part of its project, the company is continuously studying the extent to which AM could be integrated into the development of its low-power satellite network. It is currently working on manufacturing its patch antennas that will power the development of the next fully additively-manufactured Alpha micro-constellation, which is scheduled for launch in 2023.

With this in mind, the Australian company’s team is currently working with Application Innovation Group (AIG) of 3D Systems, a consulting group known for developing key applications with companies in vertical sectors adopting additive manufacturing technologies.

In this specific case, the combination of Fleet Space Technologies’ unique design and the expertise of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) allowed them to architect a complete additive manufacturing solution – which includes the development of the process and production on the 3D printer DMP Flex 350 – allowing companies to move from existing Fleet Space RF patch design to small batch production in just three weeks.

Fleet’s Alpha Constellation represents a significant leap forward in our mission to unlock the potential for truly global connectivity, creating global advantages for applications such as finding more sustainable and viable critical minerals. “, said Flavia Tata Nardini, founder and CEO of Fleet Space Technologies. ” To achieve this, we are constantly striving to find other ways to manufacture our technology to deliver exceptional quality at scale and in an economically viable way. 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 staff to create the production processes that will realize Fleet’s ambition to launch more than 140 satellites into low orbit in the Alpha constellation. »

According to a press release, Fleet Space Technologies is commissioning a DMP Flex 350 printer at its headquarters in Beverley, Adelaide, to internalize 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 mineral exploration with minimal environmental impact.

From an engineering perspective, it should be noted that the antenna design meets size, weight, and performance requirements while minimizing the need for post-processing. 3DXpert® software helped support every step of the additive manufacturing workflow, from design to post-processing. At the manufacturing level, two materials have been used on the DMP Flex 350 3D printer: LaserForm AlSi10Mg and Al6061-RAM2.

The unique vacuum chamber architecture of the DMP Flex 350, which maintains a low oxygen environment (<25 ppm), was key. Not only is argon gas consumption greatly reduced, but the vacuum chamber architecture also produces a good surface finish with fine detail that minimizes signal loss, says 3D Systems.

Using the combination of these technologies, the team was able to produce 55 RF patch antennas per build on the DMP Flex 350.

Our work with Fleet Space Technologies is another example of how 3D Systems is helping aerospace customers accelerate innovation and reduce risk in developing additive manufacturing applications. “, said Michael Shepard, vice president of the aerospace and defense segment of 3D Systems. ” We achieve this by partnering with our customers to provide them with an application solution with the hardware, materials, software and services to suit their needs. In this case, we were able to help Fleet Space Technologies set up a qualified production process for their in-house satellite hardware in a very short period of time. »

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