Mitsubishi Electric Develops Technology to 3D Print Satellite Antennas in Space
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced Tuesday that it has developed an additive manufacturing technology to 3D print satellite antennas in space. The novel technology uses a newly developed liquid resin with a low-power process that utilizes the sun’s ultraviolet rays for photopolymerization.
“The 3D printer extrudes a liquid resin that hardens into a rigid solid when exposed to solar ultraviolet rays. Using this technology, it is possible to manufacture a parabolic antenna that is both larger and lighter than a conventional antenna,” the company said in a video explaining the technology.
Mitsubishi Electric reported it printed a prototype parabolic antenna with a diameter of 165 mm and confirmed a gain of 23.5 dB at 13.5 GHz in the Ku-band. The company received a patent for the 3D printing technology and a second patent for the development of a resin that can be cured by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, even in vacuum.
The company said with this development a satellite’s antenna size does not have to be limited by the size of the fairing of the launch vehicle or the size of the satellite bus, which is currently a constraint. This could allow small satellites to achieve large-satellite capabilities.