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25th October 2019, Modena

Propelling the field of small satellites with 3D printing

3D printed 3U CubeSat structure via laser sintering technology using Windform XT 2.0 Carbon-reinforced composite material. © LISA

3D printed 3U CubeSat structure via laser sintering technology using Windform XT 2.0 Carbon-reinforced composite material. © LISA

LISA, an Italian-based company specialist for over 25 years in the use and development of advanced additive manufacturing technologies and materials, has collaborated with the Laboratoire InterUniversitaire des Système Atmosphérique (LISA) of Universite Paris-est Creteil (UPEC) on the construction of a nano-satellite that is a 3U CubeSat formfactor.

The project was carried by students under CNES and Space Campus University supervision. The goal was to develop a demonstrator that can be flight-ready in Low Earth Orbit. The engineering team at LISA and CNES decided to rely on CRP Technology and its Windform Top-Line family of high-performance materials for the manufacturing of the nano-satellite.

“Space industry has been revolutionised by the ever-increasing production and launch of small satellites. Additive manufacturing technologies not only helped this radical change to be fulfilled but have itself reached new heights with the manufacture of structural components for the new generation of Space parts using high performance composite materials,” CRP Technology explains.

“Although much still must be done to reach an extensive use of additive manufacturing for space applications, CRP Technology’s built a considerable experience supplying solutions for space key industry leaders.”

Requirements

“Using such a process and composite material from Windform’s Top-Line, we knew for sure we would be able to design the structure exactly the way we needed it,” commented  Project Manager at LISA.

Battery Cradle integrated in the 3D printed structure. © LISA

Battery Cradle integrated in the 3D printed structure. © LISA

The structure had to survive vibration tests (to endure the launch) and thermal-vacuum tests. It had also to withstand outgassing requirements. “The design has been done taking into account all of these constraints. CRP Technology’s support was crucial to achieve our aims. Their Windform Top-Line materials and additive manufacturing process allowed us also to reduce mass and optimize the way to integrate parts inside the CubeSat.”

CubeSat Structure is critical as it has to fulfil the launch-pad (P-Pod) requirements in terms of dimension, flatness and roughness, but also for outgassing, UV resistance, thermal expansion, and general space constraints. If it breaks, or stays stuck in the P-pod launcher, the mission is over.

Project

The activity of CRP Technology’s 3D Printing department has been focused from the beginning on maximising and achieving the targets required, providing full collaboration to the team at LISA. Work began with an accurate analysis of the 3D and 2D files: CRP Technology suggested alterations that made it possible to optimise the geometries of the parts, reaching the required target in terms of mass optimization and part integration.

Payload inside the structure. © LISA

Payload inside the structure. © LISA

CRP Technology has also been able to assist LISA and CNES in choosing the best technology and material to guarantee the success of the project: selective laser sintering and Windform XT 2.0 Carbon composite material.

Windform XT 2.0 replaces the previous formula of Windform XT in the Windform Top-Line family of composite materials. It features improvements in mechanical properties including an 8% increase in tensile strength, 22% in tensile modulus, and a 46% increase in elongation at break.

Testing

Once received the .STP file with optimised geometries from LISA, CRP Technology created in a short time the functional 3D printed component (the nano-satellite structure). The 3D printed part has successfully passed the control and testing criteria and has fully complied with the requests and LISA’s standards.

3U CubeSat internal view. © LISA

3U CubeSat internal view. © LISA

LISA and CNES performed many tests on the 3D printed nano-satellite structure such as vibration tests and thermal-vacuum tests. They were very satisfied with the results obtained.

“Thanks to CRP’s laser sintering technology and Windform XT 2.0 Carbon-reinforced composite material, we obtained very important key advantages such as mass reduction, component integration, outgassing control, thermal expansion, and low surface roughness,” LISA team stated. “We are more than satisfied with selective laser sintering technique and consider Windform XT 2.0 one of the disruptive revolutions in the small satellites arena. We do hope additive manufacturing will be intensively using in space application.”

www.crptechnology.com

www.windform.com

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