Nano Dimension, an Israeli electronics 3D printer manufacturer, has received grant approval from the Israel Innovation Authority to develop radio frequency (RF) space systems for NASA’s International Space Station (ISS).
A one-year project, it will be completed in collaboration with Harris Corporation, a Floridian tactical communications company, that will use its ground-based satellite tracking station to make contact with the 3D printed RF systems.
The Israel Innovation Authority will finance 40% of the total approved budget for the Israeli portion of this project which stands at an estimated $416,000 (NIS 1,500,000). Furthermore, the Harris Corporation portion is sponsored by a grant from the Space Florida Foundation.
3D printed RF satellites
According to Nano Dimension, RF system manufacturing has remained static for the last 30 years as each circuit is intertwined with cables and connectors in its own “gold box”. With the integration of additive manufacturing, particularly the DragonFly 2020 Pro 3D printer, an all-in-one PCB 3D printing system, production can be streamlined and manual labor and wasted material can be minimized.
As such, this project has been selected by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a non-profit organization that manages the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, to conduct space flight experiments on the ISS using the new 3D printed RF systems.
More specifically, the partners will enable a space flight experiment that will fly in space at low earth orbit (LEO) for one year on the ISS to understand how 3D printed circuits, systems, materials, and nanosatellites will endure various space environments.
Changing electronics manufacturing
In November 2018, Nano Dimension and Harris Corporation demonstrated the functionality of 3D printing RF amplifier circuit boards using a DragonFly 2020 Pro 3D printer. Following this experimentation, Arthur Paolella, Ph.D., senior scientist, Space and Intelligence Systems, Harris Corporation said:
“Our results showed similar RF performance between the 3D printed version and the baseline amplifier, clearly demonstrating the viability of 3D printed electronics for RF circuitry.”
In addition, earlier this year, Nano Dimension was granted a patent for its dielectric ink used for 3D printing electronics by the United States Patents and Trademark Office and the Korean Intellectual Property Office. Upon this development, Amit Dror, CEO of the company stated, “This patent approval is another step in our path to fundamentally change the way electronic parts are made, and add value to design and manufacturing processes.”
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Featured image shows a 3D printed radio frequency (RF) circuit board. Photo via Nano Dimension.