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Fleet New 3D Printing Manufacturing

7th September 2022

Fleet Space Technologies unveils its expanded manufacturing facility and new state-of-the-art 3D printer today.

The new technology represents a significant boost to Fleet Space’s capabilities, enabling  the  development and manufacture of new products in-house and paving the way for its fully 3D-printed Alpha satellite.

The 3D printer will initially be used to produce the S-Band Antenna RF Patches already in use in the company’s existing satellite constellations. These antennas receive and transmit signals between the constellations in Low Earth Orbit, and portals and modems on the ground. In future, engineers will use it to produce structural parts for its new-generation Alpha satellite to optimise weight and increase vertical integration. 

By reducing turnaround times and enabling low-risk prototyping, the 3D printer enables more efficient R&D in areas such as filters and other passive RF components.

Supplied by Konica Minolta, the new machine uses direct metal printing (DMP) technology, in which a laser welds thin layers of metal powder to produce highly complex metal parts. DMP provides unlimited design flexibility and overcomes many of the geometry and surface retention limitations imposed by traditional manufacturing techniques.

The 3D printer is the centrepiece of Fleet Space’s newly extended manufacturing facility in Adelaide, South Australia, which now employs over 80 staff.

“Bringing our 3D printing capability entirely in-house rather than outsourcing it offers huge benefits to us and our customers. As well as enabling us to make complex components for our current models and future Alpha satellites, it increases efficiency from design to production, making the whole process more cost-effective; and by being fully autonomous, we can eliminate delays in shipping and sourcing. 

 “We’re capitalising on our existing knowledge and experience of 3D printing antennas and structural components. And this is just the starting point. As our engineers explore and understand the full potential of 3D printing, we’ll be able to use it to develop new designs and produce circuit boards and other electrical components. It’s also another significant step towards our goal of producing a fully 3D printed Alpha satellite. The 3D printer is bringing us a step closer to mass production of our 288 satellite constellation where we estimate to produce 4-8 satellites every month.

 “The new metal 3D printer, and the expansion of our Adelaide facility, underlines our commitment to domestic manufacturing. This is also reflected in our huge increase in staff numbers, from 34 in May 2021 to more than 80 today, almost tripling in size. We’re a confident, growing business with our eyes firmly on the future.” Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO and Founder, Fleet Space Technologies