3D Laser Scanning Services Are Making An Impact In Space

Zortrax 3D Prints Circuit Boards for Satellite to Send First Signal From WISA WOODSAT

What do you picture when you think of a satellite floating around in space?  More than likely, you picture a big and bulky black rectangle. But it’s probably made of metal too. That’s because until recently, 3D printing and 3d laser scanning services hasn’t been able to match the durability of traditional manufacturing methods, and no material other than metal or special space plastics has ever been used. That is, until now. The WISA Woodsat mission is about to break this barrier uniquely and incredibly.

3d printing enables the world’s first wooden satellite

3D printing is revolutionizing the world in many ways. 3D printed clothes, 3D printed food, 3D printed organs—the list goes on. Now, 3D printing, and the 3D laser scan, has managed to make it into space. Zortrax (known for its high-quality 3D printing hardware) will send a 3D printed circuit board to the WISA Woodsat mission. The WISA Woodsat is a special kind of CubeSat called a nanosatellite. It’s the first wooden satellite ever, and its goal is to transmit the first signal sent from a fully 3D-printed device from space to a listener on the ground.

The satellite exterior is made from birchwood, which is a very easy material to work with. Unlike metal, birchwood doesn’t require vacuum chambers or special facilities. It’s a much more workable material, making the satellite frame easy to build.

Advanced circuitry manufacturing via 3D printing and 3D laser scanning services

The satellite’s circuitry is made from 3D-printed PEEK, a special material that is 3D printable and has good insulating properties. In addition, 3d printing engineers at Zortrax managed to 3D print nanoparticles and nanotubes in the material, resulting in an end product that is durable and conductive.

The PEEK material is tricky to work with, and 3D printing is one of the only ways to use such a material, as it requires special parameters. Notably, it prints at a high temperature (400C) and contracts and shrinks significantly when cooling off to reach room temperature. This can cause all kinds of issues, such as 3D printers jamming, cracking, and spalling. 

However, the Zortrax engineers were able to solve all these problems by printing the material at a very high temperature. Plus, the 3d printer used by Zortrax was specially calibrated for this project and printed at its highest resolution to create wires as thin as possible.

Zortrax will be sending some of their circuit boards on board the launch, which will take place with the ESA using an Electron rocket. 3D printing is making leaps and bounds as a technology, 3D printed circuits are just another step in that direction.  3D scanning services and 3D printing have already revolutionized many other industries in today’s world, and space, the final frontier, is just the next place it will boldly go.

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