3D printing parts in space thanks to igus linear axes (video) • AT drive technology

SAW maintenance-free dry linear axes are the central component of your 3D printer. They guarantee accurate print results with adjustable bearings (source: AIMIS-FYT)

When the booms of solar panels or satellite antennas are moved into space in the launch vehicle, they are subjected to significant loads. To simplify complex transportation and speed up item production, a To file has been created The AIMIS-FYT Program Student team in the 3D printing process. In the future, it should be possible to produce space-based construction parts. To run pilot tests for weightlessness, students built a 3D printer. supported by igus, They adopted Drylin SAW linear axles that are free of maintenance and light weight.

The current process of moving equipment into space is inefficient and costly. This is because the structural parts are primarily designed to withstand high loads during the spacecraft launch phase. However, these structural parts are bulky for subsequent use period. Due to the high cost and limited space on the launch vehicle, alternative solutions are needed.

Cost effective production

The Munich-based student team AIMIS-FYT has addressed the problem and is working on a 3D printing process for cost-effective space-to-space production, as part of the Aerospace Engineering degree program. To do this, students use resin that interacts with light and ultraviolet rays, which hardens the resin.

Linear units

A 3D printer had to be designed and built for the pilot test of weightlessness. In their search for the right drive technology, engineers turned to the movable plastics specialist and found what they were looking for in SAW dry linear axles. Linear units are used in the z axis and in the x axis of the printer, to form the center drive unit.

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Adjustable bearings

Linear axles are particularly impressive due to their low weight, as they are made of aluminum and maintenance-free sliding elements made of high quality polymer. To reduce the backlash of lubricant-free, dirt-resistant polymer linear guides, budding engineers switched to adjustable bearings. To ensure the print filament can also rotate, an integrated robolink D rotor with worm wheel is installed in the printer.

A series of successful tests

3D igus print space
During parabolic flight, microgravity occurs, which is very similar to weightlessness in space. Ideal test conditions for testing a 3D printer (Source: AIMIS-FYT)

To test the printer and process, the team signed up for FlyYourThesis! European Space Agency (ESA) program and accepted. Equivalent flights took place in November and December 2020.

When the plane reaches its peak ascent and descends towards the descent, microgravity occurs, which is very similar to weightlessness in space. The ideal conditions for a true printer test. “The linear axes worked flawlessly in all experiments, so we were able to print small rod as well as small skeletal structures in each parabola,” says Turbine Schaeffer of the AIMIS-FYT team with satisfaction.

Young engineers support programming

Projects like AIMIS-FYT are supported by igus as part of the “Support for Young Engineers” (Yes) program. Through the university initiative, igus wants to support pupils, students and teachers with free samples and discounts for universities and sponsorship and development of innovative projects. Click here for more information on this IGUs support for universities.

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