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Competition Demonstrates Promising Future of Additive Manufacturing for Satellite Design


First place in the Additive CubeSat Challenge went to Paolo Minetola for FoldSat, a design that uses geometries only possible with 3D printing.
(Photo: Paolo Minetola)

MINNEAPOLIS & REHOVOT, Israel—Stratasys, along with its subsidiaries, MakerBot and GrabCAD, recently announced the winners of its Additive CubeSat Challenge after a month-long, highly competitive engineering competition. First place was awarded to Paolo Minetola for his entry, FoldSat, a design that uses geometries only possible with 3D printing and implements design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) best practices. Second place went to David Franklin for his entry, STRATASATT – FDM ONE, a design that illustrates customization by using actual CubeSat components.

The CubeSat Challenge invited members of the world’s largest community of mechanical engineers—GrabCAD—to use 3D printing to rethink the design of a CubeSat, a standardized small satellite frame originally developed to allow university students to build low-cost satellites for research and education purposes. The goal was to design CubeSat structures that would be faster and easier to manufacture, and pack more utility into the very small volume that CubeSat designers had to work with. Participants had the chance to win prizes that range from MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printers to cash or manufacturing services provided by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.

The more than 200 entries, submitted from “all engineering disciplines” and geographic locations throughout the world, “demonstrate the ability of additive manufacturing to vastly improve design over traditional manufacturing methods,” according to a release from Stratasys (stratasys.com).

“Engineers were able to reduce satellite structures from up to 50 parts down to two or three parts by using additive manufacturing,” said Scott Sevcik, business development manager for aerospace and defense at Stratasys, in the release. “There were a number of very creative approaches to redesigning the satellite structure, and it was great to see several of the entries consolidate the build down to two or as few as one part. That highlights one of the most significant benefits of 3D printing a structure.”

Reducing part count from 50 to three can make a significant impact on a manufacturer’s operations by reducing the amount of assembly labor, which saves cost and time; reducing the risk of assembly error, or a late part that can delay production; and reducing the risk of repetitive stress and other ergonomic injuries due to assembly effort. It can also simplify the supply chain by reducing purchasing, receiving inspection, and other ancillary risks and costs.

Third place in the competition went to Chris Esser for his entry, Foldable Articulated CubeSat for Additive Manufacturing. His design featured 3D printed threads and six hinged panels.

Entries were judged based on technical requirements of feasibility, production, value, and optimization for additive manufacturing. The judging panel included a number of experts from the aerospace and 3D printing industry, including Dr. Jordi Puig-Suari, Cal Poly Professor and co-inventor of the CubeSat Standard; Dr. Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist, Tethers Unlimited Inc.; David Espalin, center manager for W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, University of Texas, El Paso; and Adam Hadaller, mission manager, Spaceflight Industries.

The winning designs can be viewed on the GrabCAD CubeSat Challenge results page:
grabcad.com/challenges/the-cubesat-challenge/results

Stratasys’s Aerospace vertical solutions team, formed to develop custom solutions for the aerospace market, sponsored the CubeSat Challenge with collaboration from GrabCAD, MakerBot, and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.

Stratasys is a registered trademark of Stratasys Ltd. and/or its subsidiaries or affiliates.

This technical information has been contributed by
Stratasys, Inc.

Click here to find suppliers

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