Optomec, a leading global supplier of production-grade additive manufacturing systems for 3D printed electronics and 3D printed metals, announced in 2017 that the company was awarded a NASA SBIR contract for the further development of an Adaptive Laser Sintering System (ALSS).
- In-Space Manufacturing
- In-Space Manufacturing
- Large Space Structures
- First launch
- Not announced
The success of this endeavor will enable electronic circuitry to be printed onto a wider variety of temperature sensitive substrates expanding its use for production applications. The fully automated system will also enable printed circuitry to be repaired or manufactured with minimal human intervention paving the way for its use in long duration NASA space missions.
Working in conjunction with Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, this project will enhance Optomec laser sintering technology to a fully automated curing system for printed electronics. The Optomec-Harding team seeks to enhance the localized laser sintering concept by developing an ALSS with in-situ automated adjustment of laser power and processing time. This will pave the way for the use of this advanced technology in the next generation of human space exploration and also expand production use of printed electronics to a broader range of temperature sensitive substrates used in commercial applications.
The success of this endeavor could prove to be of vital importance to NASA’s in-space, on-demand manufacturing capabilities to support the unique challenges of long-duration human spaceflight. The developed automated, in-line quality control system with ALSS will meet the requirements for long-duration human space missions with minimal need for astronaut intervention. This will allow NASA to print conformal electronics and sensors onto flexible substrates of various geometrical complexities and then fully cure them using Aerosol Jet technology, all while in space.
“After the successful design, test and implementation of ALSS, the science and technology of laser sintering will be better understood for controllable adaptive operations” said Optomec CTO, Mike Renn. “ALSS can be a key solution to NASA’s challenge of in-space, on-demand manufacturing capabilities to support the unique challenges of long-duration human spaceflight, which requires an automated adaptive in-line quality control system along with the associated manufacturing process.”
Edmond Wilson, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at Harding University says “Harding University is excited to help develop a robust, intuitive Adaptive Laser Sintering System (ALSS) with OPTOMEC, Inc., the inventor and international leader in 3D Aerosol Jet Printing. Successful development of laser assisted drying and sintering of 3D printed electronics will greatly reduce the production time for 3D printed electronics devices and substantially reduce the need for human intervention. We look forward to mentoring student researchers and help them jump start their careers by tackling cutting edge technology problems. Additionally, we know NASA is interested in automated 3D electronics printing for long duration space missions and look forward to work with OPTOMEC to meet that goal.”
Last SBIR project was in 2017 and demonstrating in-space manufacturing is unclear as of early 2023.