Feb 22, 2017 | By Benedict

Aerospace company Boeing is planning to use 3D printing in an effort to produce cheaper satellites in a shorter timespan. The 3D printed modular satellites would also require fewer workers to build.

The price tag on your average Boeing satellite is a whopping $150 million, a price necessitated by both the high-end nature of the satellites themselves and the huge labor costs required to build them. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, that system could be about to change, with Boeing looking to implement additive manufacturing technologies in order to produce cheaper, modular satellites that can be built at a much faster rate than current models.

At present, Chicago-headquartered Boeing churns out fewer than 10 of its gigantic satellites per year, largely because manual assembly is required for many critical parts. And while the current practice results in high-quality satellites, it’s a business model that won’t last, especially since competitors like Airbus will soon be able to produce hundreds of smaller satellites per year at a cost of just $500,000 each. But where Airbus is building a futuristic automated assembly line in Florida that will enable it to speed up production, Boeing’s Satellite Systems VP Paul Rusnock is eyeing a different route to increased efficiency.

According to Rusnock, 3D printing could be Boeing’s golden ticket to a faster, cheaper era of satellite production. The aerospace giant has already started implementing additive technologies at its Los Angeles facility, and is looking at ways to scale up—for both commercial projects and different satellite models. Boeing won’t be able to match the production speed of Airbus, since it needs to make much larger satellites, but the company hopes that 3D printing will bring satellite production nearer to the speed of its aircraft production: an entire Boeing 737 plane can be built in just 11 days.

While 3D printing should help Boeing to produce satellites much faster, and at a lower cost, the company will have to make some sacrifices. For example, modular satellites comprised of put-together elements can only last seven to eight years, less than the 15 years that can be squeezed out of a satellite built with manual assembly. This, however, could be a blessing in disguise, since a shorter shelf life means that Boeing can put out new satellites containing up-to-date technology at a faster rate.

Earlier this month, Boeing contracted Oxford Performance Materials to 3D print 600 parts for its Starliner Space Taxis.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Wall-e wrote at 2/22/2017 4:24:29 PM:

Awwww, space junk the likes of never before.

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