Two South Korean satellites were in need of new antenna supports so that they could adequately communicate with their users. So what did they do to get the job done?
Turned to 3d printing.
Koreasat-5A and Koreasat-7 were developed by French and German aerospace giant Thales Alenia Space, and when the company decided they wanted to look into saving money through more efficient production for the antenna support structures, they turned to Poly-Shape in France, which specializes in metal 3d printing.
Each kg of material costs about 20,000 Euro to send into space, so every gram of material savings is significant. Poly-Shape was able to create a lighter design than TAS was able to acquire in the past, which enabled the companies to claim the largest 3d printed metal part ever to be introduced to space.
TAS envisions moving toward integrated electronics during the 3d printing process, something that's being developed by a few firms across the globe, including Nano Dimensions.
"It is clear that we have identified AM (3d printing) as a good prospect for further projects, said Florence Montredon, Head of AM at Thales Alenia Space. "In the future, we would also like to incorporate thermal control technology or radio functions directly on or within the 3d structures. So functional integration is the next task. This is laso a logical consequence of the potential offered by AM.