Constructing a Cubesat using additive manufacturing

The use of Windform® XT and additive manufacturing (AM)/3D printing (3DP) technology demonstrates the fast adaptability and freedom of design possible in nearly any field. For the developers of the RAMPART Cube Sat, the use of this material and technology enabled them to modify, change, and add experiments without concern for having to develop tooling or modify an existing cube structure.

By Franco Cevolini, CEO, CRP Technology S.r.l; Walter Holemans, Planetary Systems Corporation; Adam Huang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Arkansas; Stewart Davis, Director of Operations, CRP USA, LLC; and Gilbert Moore, Project Starshine

As electronics and sensor systems become smaller and more complex, there is a push for developing advanced Cube Sats, the smallest and most flexible satellite for practical experiments in space. AM/3DP technology let us adapt the structure to carry new sensors or optics. Using CAD and additive manufacturing, the internal structure of the Cube Sat can be built to adapt to the components, instead of the other way around. This allows the use of the CAD system to adapt to new technology as it is introduced, eliminating the concern for legacy systems. A new optic or sensor can be fitted immediately and the benefit deployed to the field as quickly as possible.
In addition, standard components can be placed into a CAD library that will allow for parametric generation of portions of the satellite. In this example, laser sintering of the RAMPART BUS module shows a clear mixing of standard and custom board modules for solar panels, wire routing, and the addition of the load cell. Another benefit was the reduction in fasteners and ease of assembly. Positioning features and “snap fit” devices can be incorporated into the design to speed assembly. The extensive baffle design in the tank structure leverages this consolidation of components, removing the need for a complicated assembly.

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