Konica Minolta scores 3D printer deployment to Aussie satellite manufacturer Fleet Space

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Konica Minolta scores 3D printer deployment to Aussie satellite manufacturer Fleet Space

Australian IoT and small satellite manufacturing company Fleet Space has tapped Konica Minolta to deploy 3D printers from 3D Systems to improve its onshore manufacturing capabilities.

Fleet Space sought to scale up its manufacturing of small satellites for low Earth orbit, initially using the 3D printers to start manufacturing metal antennae, while also using the gear to develop prototypes and new parts during downtime.

The company’s satellites use a 3D-printed, all-metal patch antenna, which it claims delivers 10 times more throughput per kilogram of spacecraft. Fleet had been outsourcing its antenna manufacturing offshore, but found “significant scale-up efficiencies” if production returned to Australia.

“Fleet Space is one of Australia’s most innovative companies, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. However, this level of innovation often comes at a significant cost. Fleet Space is harnessing the efficiencies that can be found by deploying a smart, in-house 3D printing solution,” Konica Minolta national manager for emerging technology Matthew Hunter said.

“Konica Minolta reached out to Fleet Space to start a discussion and begin a proof of concept to prove that the 3D Systems DMP350 Flex metal 3D printing solution could deliver the outcomes Fleet Space required.”

In bringing back manufacturing locally, Fleet said it had been contracted to scale its operations significantly in 2022 and 2023 and needed a more efficient way to 3D print these antennae at scale.

Konica Minolta and 3D Systems were tapped to develop a build strategy to prove the capabilities of the DMP350, specifically the quality of the aluminium part and if it can deliver the volume required to meet customer demand.

Fleet Space chief executive Flavia Tata Nardini said, “Fleet Space has a mission to unlock the power of global connectivity to effect true change for our critical industries. For example, we are making critical energy transition mineral exploration faster, more sustainable, and less expensive. This is not possible without the very best technical partners.”

“We are delighted to work with Konica Minolta to deliver an entirely new constellation of fully 3D-printed satellites at scale and to the very highest technical specifications.”

Hunter added, “This is a highly technical environment with precise specifications. Konica Minolta was able to prove that the 3D Systems metal printers include market-leading technology that lets users 3D print with aluminium in a precise, repeated, and scalable method.

“This made Fleet Space both more productive and cost effective for its volume manufacturing offices and provided ongoing capacity for important research and development, keeping the organisation at the cutting edge.

“The team at Fleet Space is extremely excited about this 3D printer as it will be both a manufacturing tool and an innovation enabler.”

3D Systems SEANZ industrial solutions group leader Tim Naylor said, “One of the key criteria for Fleet Space was that the 3D printer could deliver a repeatable process to avoid any variation between parts.”

“Our printer has a closed-loop architecture, which guarantees an accurate and repeatable process. The machine also has the lowest oxygen content on the market, which delivers a pure part without defects, something that is very important when it comes to aerospace applications.”

In April, Konica Minolta tapped Macquarie Telecom to upgrade its telecommunications and data networks with SD-WAN, NBN, cloud and data centre services to provide an improved work-from-home experience for employees, while also improving network speeds and efficiency.

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