3D Printing Lattice Structures for a More Lightweight CubeSat Bus

Share this Article

Few things have brought science directly into the hands of the general public more than the CubeSat. Often 3D printed, these miniature satellites can be easily crafted and stocked with experiments. Anyone from professional scientists to grade school students can build CubeSats and see them launched into space as part of rocket payloads. This allows for new discoveries to be made by anyone, and for scientific study to be presented in a hands-on way as never before.

CubeSats can be made simply, or they can also be complex, and 3D printing can easily facilitate either. In a thesis entitled “Design and Testing of an Additively Manufactured CubeSat Structural Bus,” US Air Force Second Lieutenant Karson A. Roberts describes using 3D printing to create a CubeSat structural bus.

“Recent innovations in additive manufacturing and design capabilities have opened the door for more opportunities to integrate multiple functions into a structural design,” says Roberts. “Specifically, 3D printing through advanced laser powder bed fusion of metal powder allows for the development and integration of advanced structures that were previously unachievable.”

Roberts uses the technology to develop a CubeSat bus consisting of various internal and external features, going beyond simply providing structural support and additionally increasing the satellite’s functionality and capabilities. The integrated features include internal lattices and wiring tabs. Roberts used the 3D printers available at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), which included an Ultimaker 3 and a Concept Laser M2 Cusing printer (The process is also called Selective Laser Melting, Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Powder Bed Fusion).

The Ultimaker 3 was used to create a proof of concept and initial design iterations, while the M2 was used to print the satellite’s metal parts in Inconel 718. The CubeSat bus was designed in SOLIDWORKS, and a lattice generation software called nTopology Element was used to create lattice configurations and patterns that can be inserted into a particular part. Roberts’ research focused specifically on the lattice structures with the aim of making a previously solid structure lighter and stiffer.

“…the latticed design demonstrated mass savings compared to a solid-walled bus with the same dimensions and wall thickness, estimated at 1010.05g,” Roberts says. “This is a 35% reduction in mass compared to the total predicted mass of the male/female design. The actual mass of a solid-walled bus is unknown since it wasn’t fabricated, but the latticed design still would show an 11% reduction in mass, assuming a machined solid-walled structure was exactly the same as the predicted mass.”

The CubeSat structural bus, once it was completed, was then subject to vibration testing to see if it could withstand launch conditions.

“Unfortunately, drops in both natural frequency and peak response at the natural frequency values between the pre and post sine sweep was prevalent in this testing, and didn’t meet the passing criteria as specified by NASA GEVS,” Roberts explains. “The exact reason for this drop is unknown, and requires extensive future studies.”

The study didn’t turn out perfectly, as shown by the vibration testing results, and Roberts also points out that he was limited by the sizes of the 3D printers available. He also states that a better knowledge of the software he used may have benefited him. However, the study did show that lattice designs can greatly reduce the weight and mass of a structure like a CubeSat bus and that 3D printing can effectively create these designs. This is promising for future CubeSat developments.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Karson A. Roberts]

 

Share this Article


Recent News

nScrypt 3Dx-700 System Goes Beyond 3D Printing for Digital Manufacturing

BASF and CTIBiotech Develop 3D Bioprinted Human Reconstructed Skin



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Poietis: Bioprinting With Their Innovative Laser-Assisted Technology

In 2014, French startup Poietis developed a unique technology for the bioprinting of living tissue. Unlike conventional approaches to tissue engineering or extrusion bioprinting, their promising 4D laser-assisted system allows cells...

Creating Vascular Structures Using Low Cost Desktop 3D Printers

In a thesis entitled “Engineering of vascular networks within biocompatible hydrogels using 3D printing technology,” a PhD student named Juan Liu discusses the need for new technologies in wound healing....

3d.fab’s BioAssemblyBot Wants to 3D Print Skin onto People

3D bioprinting continues to diversify as more and more companies and research organizations join the field, each bringing their own take on the technology to the table. French collaborative platform 3d.fab has...

3D Printing for Diagnosing and Treating Cancer and R&D Tax Credits

Cancer research has evolved with the help of 3D printing. Doctors can create patient-specific 3D models of cancerous body parts to prepare for upcoming surgeries. Medical engineers can create digital...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!