GrabCAD Challenge Asks You to Reinvent the CubeSat with 3D Printing, Change Space Research Forever

While America Makes and NASA are launching a design contest to see habitats 3D printed in space, Stratasys and MakerBot are hoping to aid the space race for low-cost satellites with the CubeSat Challenge on GrabCAD.  The 3D printing leader has turned to the 2 million member 3D modeling site, and Stratasys subsidiary, to ask the GrabCAD community to put a new spin on CubeSats for a chance to win cash prizes, MakerBot Replicators, and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing services.


With its standard 10cmX10cmX10cm cubic (known as 1U) geometry and maximum weight of 1.33 kg, the invention of the CubeSat in 1999 has seen a drop in cost and increase in accessibility for space research.  Each individual satellite record specific data, using equipment capable of fitting within those dimensions, and can even be joined together with other CubeSats in 3U, 6U, or 12U configurations to yield more powerful satellites, leading some researchers to envision swarms of smaller satellites for deeps space study.  The only issue with these versatile devices are the work put into building them.

cubesat swarm

As the structure of a CubeSat typically consists of some 30 to 50 parts manually assembled, the contest hopes to see these structures simplified and 3D printed in fewer pieces. Scott Sevcik, business development manager for aerospace & defense at Stratasys, explains, “3D printing allows aerospace engineers to think differently about building satellites and gives them a whole new toolset for packing more capability into a constrained volume. 3D printing can also simplify production as you move from the hand-built satellites of today to an automated process that will enable constellations of small satellites to be built more efficiently. We’re excited to see how the GrabCAD community can advance the CubeSat standard to provide even greater utility.”

makerbot stratasys 3D printed cubesat challenge grabcad

With that in mind, it’s up to the GrabCAD community to refine CubeSats further, potentially reducing the cost of the devices even more.  Entrants will be under some pretty intimidating scrutiny, with judges including the co-inventor of the CubeSat Standard himself, Cal Poly Professor Dr. Jordi Puig-Suari, along with CEO of Tethers Unlimited, Dr. Robert Hoyt and a range of other experts in space engineering and 3D printing.

If you can perfect CubeSats for 3D printing, you’ll be eligible to obtain the 1st place prize of a MakerBot Replicator, $2,500, your design printed by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, and your story published in Stratasys’ PR for use online, at trade shows, and in conferences. 2nd place also takes home a MakerBot Replicator, as well as $1,000 and the designed printed by Stratasys. 3rd place also receives a MakerBot Replicator, plus $500.  And 4th wins $100, a MakerBot t-shirt, and a sample printed part.

With such expert judges, these designs ought to be really great, so I’m hoping to see some brilliant takes on the CubeSat standard.  It may not sound like much, but these designs could go a long way to enhancing space research in the future.  Imagine your CubeSat revolutionizing low-cost satellite research for generations to come! That alone is incentive enough to enter.  For more info about design specs and to enter, visit the challenge here.