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$27M UBS Credit Boosts SWISSto12’s Satellite 3D Printing Venture

Metal AM Markets
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In a major boost to the European satellite industry, SWISSto12, one of the fastest-growing satellite and Radio Frequency (RF) product manufacturers, has secured CHF 25 million ($27.3 million) in credit from Swiss bank UBS. This funding will primarily support the burgeoning demand for the HummingSat satellite, a product uniquely crafted with SWISSto12’s pioneering patented 3D printing technology.

Emile de Rijk, Founder and CEO of SWISSto1, said, “This CHF 25 million working capital facility with UBS gives us additional agility to execute on the manufacturing and delivery of our first HummingSats and address strong customer demand. With HummingSat, SWISSto12 is creating a new class of agile, high-performance SmallSat for geostationary orbit that is approximately three to five times smaller and lower cost than conventional geostationary satellites while still reliably delivering critical services. We’re excited to build on customer demand from global satellite operators and national governments with our innovative geostationary communications satellites that will better connect and protect users worldwide.”

Satellite innovator

Spun out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in 2011, SWISSto12 has since secured over €50 million ($53 million) from major Swiss and European investors. This includes industry strongholds such as Constantia New Business (CNB Capital), Swisscom Ventures, Swisscanto, and Zürcher Kantonalbank.

SWISSto12’s innovative use of 3D printing technology in satellite design and manufacturing is proving transformative. It’s patented 3D printing not only enables the production of advanced RF products for aerospace applications, encompassing telecommunications, electronic warfare (EW), and radar, but also paves the way for groundbreaking advancements in satellite design.

A perfect example of this innovation is the HummingSat. Named after the agile and seemingly stationary hummingbird, this satellite is set to introduce a new era of efficient space solutions. These SmallSats are just over one cubic meter, making them three to ten times smaller than conventional satellites. Its compact design significantly reduces costs and provides a unique opportunity for rideshare during rocket launches, allowing them to hitch a ride with larger spacecraft. With the support of over €30 million ($32 million) from the European Space Agency (ESA), the ambitious HummingSat platform project is on track, with the first of its kind designed for geostationary orbit scheduled for launch in 2025.

Strategic collaboration with ESA and the pioneering approach to satellite manufacturing highlights SWISSto12’s position as a leader in the aerospace industry, showcasing the potential of 3D printing in revolutionizing space technology.

HummingSat geostationary telecommunications satellite. Image courtesy of SWISSto12.

Marked by milestones

2022 marked a pivotal year for SWISSto12. Intelsat, a leading integrated satellite and terrestrial network operator, became its first commercial customer, opting for the innovative HummingSat geostationary telecommunications satellite. This momentum carried into 2023 with a deal to supply three HummingSats to Inmarsat, which had recently been acquired by Viasat.

Swisscom Ventures Partner Pär Lange highlighted the significance of these achievements, noting, “SWISSto12 is the first ever growth-stage company to sell a whole geostationary satellite to global satellite operators –a testament to the uniquely transformative market potential of the HummingSat platform and the team’s technical and commercial acumen. Having generated over €200 million in customer orders, SWISSto12 is also one of the few growth-stage companies able to secure a growth facility of this magnitude from a multinational bank such as UBS – the company is in a tremendously good position to reinvigorate the geostationary communications market on which billions of people depend for broadband, broadcast and safety services.”

Bright future ahead

With many promising partnerships, SWISSto12 stands at a pivotal point in its journey. Its collaboration with established names like Thales Alenia Space, Elbit, IAI, and ESA highlights the industry’s confidence in its capabilities. Dedicated to 3D printing complex satellite parts, SWISSto12 already has hundreds of products incorporated into in-orbit satellites, including the Eutelsat Konnect satellite from Thales, as well as satellites from the U.K.’s Inmarsat and Israel’s NSLComm.

Innovation drives the space industry, with 3D printing gaining significant traction in recent years. Aerospace leaders like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Rocket Lab have all incorporated 3D printing for a range of components, from engines to structural facets. As the world becomes more interconnected, the demand for reliable and efficient satellite communication is bound to increase. With its application of 3D printing technology and industry partnerships, SWISSto12 claims to offer solutions tailored to this evolving demand. The financing from UBS indicates potential seen in SWISSto12; let’s hope it doesn’t also hint at the blurring lines between banking, technology, and aerospace.

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