In efforts to further development of and explore the potential of the CubeSat, Stratasys has enticed numerous brilliant minds from the field of engineering and design in the GrabCADcommunity to come forth and offer up their own ideas in a challenge for a technical redesign of the CubeSat.
The process was indeed a win-win for all as entrants were able to vie for glory, and Stratasys and other agencies will be able to harness new energy and ideas for using the research device even further.
A standardized 10 x 10 x 10 cm cube, the future of the versatile CubeSat, often used in university and research settings, has kept engineers like winner Paolo Minetola busy for the last month. The idea with designs being entered was to show compatibility with existing CubeSat deployment systems. Used as the standard for research satellites, the CubeSat is scalable in that it can be grouped into other configurations, allowing it to grow in complexity as required for project scope, depending on the agency and need.
“By standardizing the geometry, componentry, and interfaces, the CubeSat model has radically dropped the cost of building and launching a small satellite,” points out the Stratasys team. “But, despite the efficiencies of standardization, the CubeSat remains constrained by traditional manufacturing methodology and the structure contains 30-50 parts including fasteners.”
Stratasys, not surprisingly, sees 3D printing as a way to harness the full potential of the CubeSat which they foresee undergoing “dramatic expansion” in the future.
With the CubeSat Challenge, healthy competition is enjoyed, great new ideas come to the forefront, and innovation is promoted within the CubeSat community, which is a key goal of Stratasys, which delved into their GrabCAD community along with the help of MakerBot, to see what brilliance would spring forth. They certainly weren’t disappointed, with over 200 entries submitted as projects were created, in collaboration with both GrabCad and MakerBot, to overhaul the low-cost CubeSat in a mission to increase its speed, efficiency, and production quality.
Paolo Minetola was announced as the first prize winner, along with David Franklin (2nd place) and Chris Esser (3rd place). The designers will be awarded with an array of rewards ranging from a MakerBot Replicator desktop 3D printer to cash and manufacturing services provided by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. The designers were judged by an impressive and experienced panel who examined the projects for true real-world feasibility, for utility and production value, as well as 3D printing potential. The designs were compared against the list for judging criteria and then rated from one to ten in each category. The competition was very close, and everyone involved had the opportunity to learn new things.
Minetola’s design stood apart not only in its elegant aesthetics and leveraging of 3D printed geometries, but also in that he was able to incorporate all of the common features of the CubeSat as well. To see images and descriptions of many more of the entries, click here.
- Jordi Puig-Suari, Cal Poly Professor and Co-Inventor of the CubeSat Standard
- Robert Hoyt, CEO and Chief Scientist, Tethers Unlimited Inc.
- David Espalin, Center Manager, W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, University of Texas, El Paso
- Adam Hadaller, Mission Manager, Spaceflight Industries
- Patrick Price, Aerospace Additive Manufacturing Research Engineer, Stratasys
- Jesse Marin, Aerospace Project Engineer, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing
- Jonathan Cook, Director of Product, MakerBot
- Ben Ewing, Community Manager, GrabCAD
“Engineers were able to reduce satellite structures from up to 50 parts down to two or three parts by using additive manufacturing,” explained Scott Sevcik, business development manager for aerospace and defense at Stratasys. “There were a number of very creative approaches to redesigning the satellite structure, and it was great to see several of the entries consolidate the build down to two or as few as one part. That highlights one of the most significant benefits of 3D printing a structure.”
Minetola took home $2500, a new MakerBot Replicator and material pack, a featured story by Stratasys, and his design, which is a complex 3D printed geometry called FoldSat, will be 3D printed by them. Franklin’s design, STRATASATT-FDM ONE, is meant to show customization that can be used with the satellite’s components. Esser entered his Foldable Articulated CubeSat for Additive Manufacturing which includes threads and hinged panels that are 3D printed.
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