4030 3D Printing Multi-Functionality: AM for Aerospace Applications

Fabrication of electronic systems through a multi-technology system combining material extrusion, CNC routing, direct-write, and wire embedding capabilities.

Development and optimization of a Multi3D manufacturing system with both additive and subtractive manufacturing processes along with evaluation of materials and material interfaces for use in additive manufacturing in aerospace applications.

Problem
Objective
Technical Approach
Accomplishments
Project Participants
Problem

One of the fundamental challenges in additive manufacturing (AM) is that there are limitations in the final product functionality and multi-material usage that are required within a single product build for aerospace applications such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites. Fabrication of electronic systems for these types of aerospace applications typically require multiple manufacturing processes to produce the final product.

Objective

One of the fundamental challenges in additive manufacturing (AM) is that there are limitations in the final product functionality and multi-material usage that are required within a single product build for aerospace applications such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites. Fabrication of electronic systems for these types of aerospace applications typically require multiple manufacturing processes to produce the final product.

Technical Approach

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) led the design and construction of the Multi3D System in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Stratasys, rp+m, University of New Mexico, and Youngstown State University all of whom provided application development and design requirements to:

  • Determine the best layout for each of the manufacturing stations within the complete Multi3D System
  • Design a portable build platform and traveling envelope to transport a workpiece while not affecting the temperature and registration of the part
  • Utilize access to the Stratasys Fortus 400mc machine for integration of a leveling plate to support a portable build platform
  • Design an efficient communication system across all process stages
  • Evaluate thermoplastic materials and material interfaces for use in AM aerospace applications
  • Demonstrate the system for innovative aerospace applications in the fabrication of UAVs and satellites
Accomplishments

This project resulted in the fabrication of one of the most revolutionary hybrid manufacturing systems to date. The Multi3D System combines additive and subtractive technologies to allow for fabrication of electronic systems through its multi-technology system, combining of material extrusion, CNC routing, direct-write, and wire embedding capabilities.

Upon completion of the developed Multi3D System, four applications were successfully printed which included multiple antenna designs, thermal management systems, a UAV, and a propulsion system. The design requirements developed by Lockheed Martin for the 3D printed UAV consisted of a printed nylon fuselage with embedded electronic components to save volume and weight while improving mechanical strength. The UAV was successfully flown upon completion of the project. The polycarbonate design containing copper wire for the 3D printed pulsed plasma thruster to serve as a propulsion system in potential satellite systems was manufactured by the Multi3D System with application efforts provided by Northrop Grumman and was successfully tested at Busek. Along with these devices, rp+m developed a polycarbonate material loaded with boron carbon particles that was processed on the Multi3D System for potential use in radiator panels.

The Multi3D System is already being utilized in other projects. Raytheon Missile Systems partnered with UTEP’s Keck Center to develop a prototype workcell that utilizes seeker subassemblies (such as electronics and optics), AM technologies, and robotics to produce functional seekers. Robotic pick-and-place capabilities were integrated into the Multi3D System to build multiple missile seeker variants. In addition, this project led to a second America Makes award for construction of an all-in-one low cost Multi3D System, which integrates all of the components on the existing Multi3D into one single system.

Project Participants

Project Principal

University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Logo

Other Project Participants

  • University of New Mexico
  • Youngstown State University
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Northrup Grumman
  • Stratasys
  • rp+m

Public Participants

  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • National Science Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Energy

Success Story

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