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UAM 3D Printer Starts Manufacturing Satellite Components For NASA

Feb 23, 2021

In the aerospace field, the customizable and low-cost 3D printing technology has become an excellent solution for spacecraft production. Today, higher-value satellite heat exchangers have begun to be manufactured with 3D printing, once again highlighting the huge potential of 3D printing technology. Recently, Fabrisonic used the SonicLayer 1200 3D printer to create a more valuable satellite heat exchanger for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and passed the strict tests of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

3D printed heat exchanger manufactured by Fabrisonic

UAM 3D printer

Founded in 2011, Fabrisonic is a service provider focused on metal 3D printing, which uses its proprietary Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) technology to fulfill orders. Hybrid manufacturing technology essentially involves ultrasonic welding of metal strips into layers. Once the object is formed, CNC machining will give it more complex features. The advantages of this technology are very obvious in the manufacturing process of aerospace components, and it has helped the company obtain multiple cooperation opportunities with NASA.

The latest NASA project will eventually be applied to the Atlas V rocket

UAM 3D printer starts manufacturing satellite components for NASA

In the latest NASA project, Fabrisonic was commissioned by the Utah State University (USU) School of Engineering to develop two unique components for the thermal satellite system. Although Fabrisonic’s SonicLayer 7200 3D printer has previously been used to achieve fully sealed components, this time, the company’s engineers chose to use a 1200 machine, instead using a more cost-effective 10 x 10 x 10 inch build volume.

In the production process, the team used a combination of addition and subtraction methods, using CNC machining to create complex fluid passages for parts and filling them with support materials. Once placed in place, these supports can effectively prevent excess metal from being squeezed into the cavity of the device during printing.

In the post-processing, the support material is washed away, and then the parts are processed into the final shape, so that the exchanger has a smooth and accurate fluid passage. In order to test the leak-tightness and leak-proofness of the equipment (which is essential for the end use), they were then subjected to rigorous JPL testing.

In the end, these parts conquered a series of tests, including being submerged under water, withstanding a pressure of 50 psi, and a simulation of the vibration encountered on the Atlas V rocket launcher. After passing the preliminary evaluation, these devices have now been shipped to USU for final testing, which will use a helium leak detector to simulate space vacuum.