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3DOPTIC shows ceramic 3D printed optics for satellites and drones

#SIU_news 2020-06-26 00:00:00

Additive technologies paved the way for promising new products designed for high-precision instruments mounted on board spacecraft and drones. The 3DCeram brand made a flat mirror for the front laser engine using a unique 3DOPTIC service. The innovation is the use of 3D printing to create a ceramic optical substrate adapted to atypical environments for use in space.

Opportunities for the aerospace industry

The "visual" system of the aircraft must meet the increased criteria of rigidity and strength in order to ensure the stability of the horizon line, withstand critical mechanical loads and extreme temperatures. The traditional production of components for optics requires a lot of time and narrow-profile equipment.

The use of additive techniques allows to reduce the mass of the finished object due to the original geometry, shorten the lead time, significantly reduce the consumption of raw materials. The ability to fabricate complex designs and add new features simplifies system integration.

3DCeram's own developments allow you to create ceramic optical substrates according to individual customer criteria. The technologies developed by the company are based on the ability of direct three-dimensional printing to use the minimum material required to build a mesh mirror. If this part is made by milling, then 90% of the ceramics will become waste, and there is also a risk of cracking.

3D printing techniques allowed developers of optical systems to experiment with geometric shapes of mirrors, to analyze half-closed rear elements, to study in detail the integrated options.

The research results open up new prospects for the implementation of the next generation of devices. The equipment will include compact systems with advanced functions (cooling channel, thermal insulation).

Traditionally, the process of manufacturing high-tech devices is carried out in 6 stages:

  • The execution of the workpiece by molding or pressing.
  • Milling an element to reduce weight.
  • Grinding to remove roughness.
  • Polishing to ensure a smooth surface.
  • Coating for regulation of spectral reflectivity.
  • The implementation of the interface.

The development of 3DOPTIC has reduced the number of production steps to three: printing the part, polishing and applying a special coating. The integration of the interface is carried out by conventional gluing. The possibilities of additive methodologies give a chance to carry out the procedure with impeccable accuracy. Also reduces the risk of difficulties during mass launch.

Consumable Specifications

The choice of material for ceramic optics is a priority part of the process. The starting material should have a certain density, high mechanical properties, including the established coefficient of thermal expansion.

The company uses special 3DMix materials, including pastes and suspensions, specially designed for printing optical devices. Raw materials guarantee the quality of the final product, identical to products made by classical methods.

Commercially available components used by the company include:

  • Alumina (anhydrous aluminum oxide Al2O3), which gives the printed elements the desired hardness and electrical insulation characteristics. The resource is close to titanium alloys, but has improved stiffness and reduced density.
  • Cordierite, demanded due to low thermal conductivity, low dielectric loss, resistance to high temperatures.
  • Heat-resistant silicon nitride with a low coefficient of thermal expansion, immune to thermal shock.

If the client wants to use his material, its composition must be investigated, tested, a comparative analysis is performed. A team of experts develops the original paste, taking into account the requirements of the customer. Specialists achieve the necessary properties of the raw materials, check the reactivity of the mass after mixing, optimize the consumables, and make a reference sample.

3D ceramic printing demonstrates potential in all vital areas

Additive techniques are changing traditional industrial approaches. Today, 3D printing with ceramics helps vaccine production, is indispensable in the creation of electronics and computer equipment, and is used in the aerospace sector for the manufacture of parts for satellites and aircraft engines. The low density of raw materials, chemical and radiation resistance, impact strength and thermal insulation capabilities make it the material of the future.

3D technology helps in the production of functional prototypes. They reduce the cost of production, improve performance, reduce lead times. 3D equipment is involved in NASA projects in the preparation of the Martian mission. Industrial giants order large shipments of spare parts for spacecraft.

In addition to increasing productivity and saving time, the advanced developments of 3DCeram guarantee the following advantages in the manufacture of high-tech optics:

  • balancing the ratio of stiffness and mass;
  • embedding the necessary functions;
  • simplification of the interface.

3D printing is capable of embodying a revolutionary design, optimizing the technical and commercial aspects of extraordinary powders and suspensions to improve product performance.

Today 3DCeram is developing new aerospace applications that are actively using advanced additives in production, and offers interesting ceramic applications for creating hypersonic aircraft and jet engines.

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