3D printed space composites

US-based Continuous Composites has been chosen by NASA to develop composite structures for space applications using its continuous fiber 3D printing technology.

The company has been contracted by the space organization’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to additively manufacture (AM) the structures in an isogrid form with a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). Isogrids are a type of partially hollowed-out structure with integral stiffening ribs.

According to the company, objects such as satellites and optical benches require low to zero CTE to prevent warping or distortion from expansion and contraction due to the significant temperature swings in space.

Continuous Composites plans to use its CF3D technology to print a flat 1.6’ by 3.3’ open isogrid rib structure. According to the company, CF3D printed isogrid structures can be deposited onto a support surface of many different shapes, including flat, cylindrical, spherical and conical. The resulting part can be improved for the desired strength and stiffness depending on launch and space loads.

“This contract builds upon the work we have been doing in the DoD and commercial aerospace sector, and we’re excited to introduce our unique capabilities to the space industry,” said John Brendel, application engineer.