Canadian manufacturing service bureau Burloak Technologies and communications company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) have agreed to collaborate in order to develop 3D printed satellite parts.
The deal will see the companies continue their ongoing partnership for at least another five years, using additive manufacturing to optimize the design and manufacturability of a range of antenna technologies. Overall, the aim of the project is to prove the viability of 3D printed parts for applications in the harsh environment of space, an outcome which is expected to yield “significant benefits” for both partners.
“With challenging technological needs, it’s important that we find the right partner to help us fully leverage the potential of additive manufacturing for space applications,” said Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA. “This collaboration is a perfect example of partnerships that MDA develops under its LaunchPad program.”
“We’re confident Burloak Technologies is the ideal supplier to continue supporting our efforts.”
Burloak’s additive aerospace capabilities
Formed in 2005, Burloak is a subsidiary of global metal manufacturing network Samuel, Son & Co. Limited, and provides a range of 3D printing engineering and design services. The company’s wide solutions offering includes materials development and precision CNC machining in addition to the post-processing and metrology of printed parts.
Most relevantly, Burloak has worked with a number of aerospace and automotive businesses in recent years, to improve the speed and scalability of its additive manufacturing operations. The service provider began its involvement in the 3D printing industry in 2014, when it opened a new $104 million Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Ontario, Canada. In a sense of what was to come, the facility was designed to enhance Burloak’s technology for aerospace applications, and to house all of its systems and expertise in one place.
Later, in July 2018, the company became part of GE Additive’s Manufacturing Partner Network (MPN). As one of the group’s founding members, Burloak purchased GE Additive equipment, materials, software and technology, in order to expand upon its 3D printing capabilities. Not long after joining the MPN, the company ordered further machines from Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) business Sciaky, with a similar stated aim of enhancing its service offering to clients.
More recently, Burloak has begun collaborating with French aviation business Safran Landing Systems to expand upon the aerospace applications of its technology, and develop 3D printed landing gear parts. Going one step further in seeking novel uses of its services, Burloak started working with MDA to create additive aerospace components in 2018.
Burloak and MDA’s continued collaboration
Partnering with MDA has proved beneficial to Burloak, with the aerospace company’s expertise in space robotics, sensors, satellite payloads and antennas being well-known. Having been set up in 1969 as a division of Maxar Technologies, MDA has already worked on a number of similar research programs, while also boasting five space facilities in Canada, and one in the United Kingdom.
The companies started to collaborate, when they were jointly awarded a contract by the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Technology Development Program (STDP) in 2018. Working on the project, the partners aimed to scale up the application of 3D printing technology, in order to develop more complex aerospace components, specifically targeting parts on the sub-system level.
Following the success of their previous engagement, the businesses have now announced a new deal which will see them continue working together for five more years, to optimize the design of printed satellite parts. Specifically, working as part of MDA’s LaunchPad program, the pair will examine how to further improve the size and performance of antenna components for the Canadian government.
“Over the last two years we have worked closely with MDA’s Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue business to apply and evolve additive manufacturing to their product offerings,” concluded Colin Osborne, President and Chief Executive Officer at Samuel. “This collaboration has allowed us to optimize antenna designs in terms of size, mass and performance to create a new set of possibilities for the industry.”
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Featured image shows a satellite built by MDA subsidiary Space Systems Loral (SSL), being refuelled. Image via SSL.