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Rapid prototyping and manufacturing for space components

Research project PA/32 (Research action PA)


Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  KRUTH Jean-Pierre - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  •   DORMAL Thierry - Centre de Rech. S&T de l'Industrie des Fabrications Métal. (CRIF)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  • Prof. dr.  ROCHUS Pierre - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005

Description :

The general purpose of the project is: to bring together the know-how available in Belgium on Rapid Prototyping/Rapid Manufacturing and apply it to the space sector and to develop those technologies to the specific needs of the space sector.

This project aims to provide a major contribution to topic B of the call for TAP proposals (spatial sector – generic technologies for the development/production of prototypes of systems, instruments and components for satellites and launchers) and to establish a network of partners who will share their expertise and research results in that domain.

The technical objective is to borrow generic technologies from the domain of ‘rapid prototyping’ (RP), ‘rapid product development’ (RPD) and ‘rapid manufacturing’ (RM) and to apply, adapt and further develop those technologies to make them applicable to the development and fabrication of prototypes and components for the spatial sector. The evolution of these new technologies during the last years provide new solutions to allow fast, accurate and automated production of prototypes or functional parts starting from a 3D CAD model. The range of materials is growing drastically but it is not yet adapted to aerospace requirements (e.g. no commercial processes for direct production of Ti or Al parts).

Since the spatial sector normally requires very short series, the classical manufacturing techniques – like injection moulding, investment casting or five-axis milling – are often unsuited or prohibitively expensive. Rapid Manufacturing is an emerging technology offering solutions to this manufacturing problem and to provide real functional components rather than prototypes.

The partners of the project (i.e. technology user CSL and technology providers CRIF and K.U.Leuven), with some input of members of the users’ commission, defined a list of R&D topics and tasks that are relevant to the space sector and within reach of the technology providers.
Some of the goals are for example the enhancement of geometrical accuracy and surface quality, the production of highly functional prototypes in thermoplastic, ceramic and metal materials, the production of porous or hollow lightweight parts and the production of components with gradient material properties.

The applicability to space parts is demonstrated and proved with several case studies provided by the users. The suitable techniques and limitations are provided in a guideline report giving advise on the use of RP/RM/RPD in the spatial sector.

Besides the technical objectives, the project is a major stimulus to establish a network of organisations (K.U.Leuven, CRIF, CSL) and industries (AMOS, OIP, Verhaert, Materialise, Sonaca, Techspace Aero) that share their needs, research results and solutions in the domain of RP, RPD and RM for spatial applications.


Documentation :

Rapid prototyping and manufacturing for space components : final report    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2007 (SP1834)
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