Several years ago, GrabCAD hosted the CubeSat Challenge in which designers around the world were asked to think about small satellites and how design could be simplified with 3D printing. At the time, there wasn’t a material on the market to meet all requirements for the application. But the creativity of designers showed the world how 3D printing could reduce part count and simplify assembly of satellites in the rapidly growing small sat market.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes we were already tackling the material challenge. Stratasys FDM filament produced from ULTEM™ 9085 and 1010 resins had been used to make parts for launch vehicles and satellites. And while these materials have the strength and low out-gassing properties required, they are electrostatically insulative. NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center reached out to us to overcome the limitations of materials made for another application being pressed into service in space. Within a few months, we produced a new, PEKK-based material with ESD properties that was ideal for spacecraft parts. NASA first flew parts made from this material on ICESAT-2.
Not long after, NASA Johnson Spaceflight Center and their Orion prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, came to Stratasys seeking exactly what Goddard had requested – a high-performing 3D printing thermoplastic with all the properties required to perform in a space environment. We continued to refine our formulation and worked with NASA to qualify the material for the crewed spaceflight operations on Orion.
With strong adoption on major programs in spaceflight (and much less public adoption in the defense space), Stratasys has now fully commercialized this material as ANTERO™ 840CN03 – our PEKK-based material ideally formulated, tuned, and extensively tested to perform in highly repeatable, full size industrial Stratasys FDM 3D printers.
Though years have passed since the original CubeSat challenge, the public release of ANTERO 840CN03 means the right material is finally widely available for satellite equipment manufacturers. This helps them realize the full supply chain, assembly, and design freedom benefits of 3D printing on their spacecraft – whether it’s a cable routing bracket like on ICESAT-2, a hatch cover similar to Orion, or an entire CubeSat frame.
ANTERO is here – and it’s is ready for orbit. Take a moment to learn more about the power of Stratasys advanced materials!