A lightweight antenna support for Earth observation satellites has been manufactured using 3D printing techniques.
Swiss firm Ruag Space built the aluminium component with support from US company Altair and German additive manufacturing specialist Eos.
The team used topology optimisation methods alongside 3D printing to achieve weight and stiffness characteristics not possible using conventional analysis and manufacturing techniques.
The 400mm-long antenna support is said to be one of the longest metal components ever produced using powder bed manufacturing. It is undergoing a battery of intensive tests for the rest of this year.
Ruag Space chief technical officer Michael Pavloff said: “Our goal is to equip one of the future Sentinel-1 satellites with antenna support components that have been manufactured using an industrial 3D printer.”
He added that 3D printing could change the way satellites are made.
“We are currently in the process of developing further space applications,” he said. “In the future it will be possible to create entire satellite structures using a 3D printer.
“This means that electrical harnesses, reflectors, heating pipes, and other assemblies that today still have to be manufactured individually could then be integrated directly into the structural elements.”