3D printed components for high performance small satellites 

PEEK materials from Ensinger have proven themselves in various aerospace applications, such as satellite construction. In this segment, small satellites weighing up to 500 kg are enjoying increasing demand. Driven by new data networks according to the 5G standard and the internet, the demands on missiles are constantly increasing. Since the introduction of the specification for low-cost small satellites 20 years ago, their areas of use have developed from simple commercial applications to demanding technical and scientific tasks. Today, small satellites fulfil functions that until recently required larger and heavier satellites. High-performance plastics and industrial 3D printing have contributed significantly to the triumph of small satellites.

Transmission of laser data via cube satellites

Due to the specification of standardised housing formats, the cost-effective cube satellites are of particular importance as the smallest possible unit (U1). They have a standardised cube shape with an edge length of 10 cm and a maximum mass of 1,33 kg and can be extended as required. During their deployment in orbit, the small satellites deliver new types of earth observation and data products by means of laser communication. Large amounts of data are encoded and sent to ground stations by laser beam at several times the data rate and without interference from other channels, such as conventional radio channels.

Fibre bracket made of PEEK as a carrier for polymer fibres

Optical polymer fibres, also known as optical fibres, are an essential component of data transmission. These hair-thin strands are wound onto a fibre bracket and secured. The demands on the process technology and the material from which the fibre holder is to be manufactured are correspondingly high.

During its use, the material will be permanently exposed to high and fluctuating temperatures of -10 °C to 50 °C. In addition to excellent heat resistance, the material must have the highest possible strength, low outgassing and good creep resistance. These properties must also be guaranteed over a period of several years. It is also imperative that the robust material has the lowest possible component weight.

PEEK is the only high-temperature plastic approved for aerospace applications that fulfils the decisive criterion of minimal outgassing. Within the Ensinger PEEK family, the two materials TECAFIL PEEK EV natural and TECAFIL PEEK VX natural qualify.

3D printing of PEEK materials

The two decisive criteria for choosing the additive manufacturing process are the geometry and the batch size from 1 piece. In addition, 3D printing has two further advantages: flexibility and speed.

The 3D printing of PEEK filaments in reliable, certified quality places high demands on the process technology. Even during printing, the materials are exposed to high temperatures of 180 °C to 210 °C.

Thanks to over 50 years of experience with high-performance plastics and their processing, this new development was successfully realised in a short space of time.

PEEK - the suitable material

PEEK filament TECAFIL PEEK EV natural Teaser
TECAFIL PEEK EV natural - 1,75 mm
PEEK filament TECAFIL PEEK VX natural Teaser
TECAFIL PEEK VX natural - 1,75 mm