Fleet Space is an agile space company based in South Australia. Their mission is to connect everything using cutting edge communications and space technologies to enable the next giant leap in human civilisation. Fleet Space partnered with Konica Minolta and 3D systems to utilise the DMP350 Flex metal printer in order to create an all-metal antenna in Australia.
“We are currently driving towards producing very high-quality, in-house aluminium RF patch antennas. We are working towards the first fast iteration, cheap and easily manufacturable 3D printed nanosatellite… for a company like Fleet Space to have that technology in-house and be able to control their own supply chain and produce that part cheaper, it just makes sense.”
Dr Christopher Kempt, Lead Assembly Technician, Fleet Space
Originally, Fleet Space's antennae production was outsourced to an offshore provider, resulting in issues such as lengthy delays of the manufactured parts. As in any industry, time is money and, if a part fails to perform at its best, the result is lost productivity and expensive downtime. Fleet Space recognised the many benefits of being able to control supply through in-house manufacturing, as there’s a significant need to scale capacity. Having the ability to rapidly prototype new designs of parts in between production of their RF patch-antenna, would have been impossible without in-house manufacturing capabilities.
Fleet Space's, Lead Assembly Technician, Dr Kristopher Kempt explained:
"3D printing drives down cost. Not just because you can produce a part without having to worry about a lot of additional machinery and time, but also because you don’t have to worry about other external costs, like all your courier transport and all of your consumables."
Fleet Space collaborated with Konica Minolta and 3D systems to revolutionise the development of all-metal aluminium RF patch antennae. Requiring a machine that would make their ideas come to life, Konica Minolta and 3D Systems worked with Fleet Space to develop a build strategy, proving that the DMP350 could print the quality of aluminium part and the volumes needed. This process was key in Fleet Space’s decision to implement the DMP350 Flex metal printer.
Konica Minolta's, National Manager Emerging Technologies, Matthew Hunter said:
“When we first started working with Fleet Space we were extremely excited to be working with such an innovative company… It was really good to be able to bring those two companies together and for us to be involved in the partnership.”
The use of a 3D printer in aerospace manufacturing has significant implications for space exploration and research. With the ability to print parts and components in-house, Fleet Space have reduced the cost and time required to scale manufacturing and to research and develop parts.
Dr Christopher Kempt demonstrated the advantages of 3D printing as he stated: