Celebrate National Space Day on May 5, 2023 / How lasers help aerospace manufacturers reach greater heights and make space travel happen, better
Five Facts from TRUMPF for National Space Day
FARMINGTON, Conn., April 6, 2023 – The space industry is booming. Investors spent more than 10 billion dollars – a tenfold increase in the last ten years – on space technology in 2021 and more than 2,000 new satellites were launched in 2022. In honor of these achievements and National Space Day on May 5, 2023, TRUMPF shares five facts about how the high-tech company’s lasers are used by aerospace manufacturers to advance the space industry.
“National Space Day is a perfect time to celebrate how lasers are bringing the dream of affordable spaceflights, deep space missions, and eventually space colonization closer to reality,” said Henrikki Pantsar, managing director of TRUMPF Inc. Laser Technology in Plymouth, Michigan. “Lasers help manufacturers reach greater heights. We are proud to be an enabling technology transforming rockets, satellites, and other aerospace manufacturing. In recent years, we have seen many exciting laser applications in the space industry, and we expect to see even more TRUMPF technology used in future.”
Here are five ways TRUMPF lasers are helping to advance space technology.
1. Laser 3D printing produces high-quality aerospace components. Disasters can loom if rocket parts do not meet the highest quality standards. Fortunately, with its expertise in manufacturing and laser technology, TRUMPF supports space companies as an equipment supplier. Specifically, its laser 3D printers are a key technology used for the cost-effective production of satellite and space components. TRUMPF’s productive laser metal fusion (LMF) 3D printing systems easily meet the highest industrial 3D printing standards. With years of experience meeting the stringent quality requirements of manufacturers of medical technology, such as pacemakers, and car battery manufacturers, TRUMPF draws on this know-how to perfect the laser processing of aerospace parts that must be equally leak-proof and crash-proof.
2. Lasers create safer rockets and flawless launches. Aerospace companies rely on lasers from TRUMPF to weld rocket tank components made of special metal alloys with the level of precision needed to ensure rockets do what they are supposed to, even under the extreme conditions of launch or flight through the atmosphere. The welding work on the fuel tank of a rocket must be flawless so tanks do not lose even the smallest drop of fuel. A tiny leak or a hairline crack could mean the difference between a successful launch or a failure. TRUMPF lasers weld parts so precisely, they can withstand conditions as extreme as a rocket launch!
3. Laser 3D printing makes it possible to produce satellites and thrusters cost-effectively. A boom in private production of satellites, landing shuttles, and launch vehicles has increased competition for lucrative contracts among suppliers. Production costs must be reduced for the commercialized space travel to succeed. This is where TRUMPF’s experience in efficient manufacturing processes and 3D printers come into play. Satellites need thrusters to align and maintain the right position in space, landing shuttles use thrusters to touch down gently on the moon, and rockets use thrusters to adjust their flight direction. For cost-effective and material-saving thruster production, companies are turning to laser 3D printing. For example, one US company manufactures thrust nozzles with TRUMPF 3D printers in a particularly weight-saving way. Laser 3D printing also makes other advantages possible, such as the production of highly complex parts and the processing of exotic alloys, both for small series and one-off productions.
4. Lasers ensure more sustainable usage of rare materials. Producing aerospace parts can require expensive and rare earth material, such as niobium-based alloys. These special, extremely heat-resistant alloys cost up to 1,600 dollars per kilogram. In the past, when companies produced components from a blank by drilling, milling, or turning, a large part of the raw material ended up as waste. Out of five kilograms of the special niobium alloy, sometimes only 500 grams might make it into space. In contrast, companies producing a part with a 3D laser printer only requires the material that is actually needed for it to fly into space.
5. Lasers will help align a world-changing network of “low-earth orbit” (LEO) satellites. A major driver of commercial spaceflight, LEO satellites are expected to improve global data communication and make internet connections possible even in remote regions. But for it to happen, these LEO satellites must be aligned with the highest precision. TRUMPF Photonic Components is developing the “mini laser,” a powerful laser diode or Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) for use in space-qualified gyroscopes, or sensors that measure the position of satellites. Success depends on cost-effective mass production and operation. Manufacturing approaches such as laser 3D printing of satellite and rocket parts and the ability to reuse rocket components are making rockets lighter, more efficient, and cheaper. This is particularly important when setting a network of hundreds to thousands of small LEO satellites.
TRUMPF is a high-tech company offering manufacturing solutions in the fields of machine tools and laser technology. The company drives digital connectivity in the manufacturing through consulting, platform products and software. TRUMPF is a technology and market leader in highly versatile machine tools for sheet metal processing and in the field of industrial lasers. In 2021/22, the company employed some 16,500 people and generated sales of about 4.2 billion euros. With more than 80 subsidiaries, the TRUMPF Group is represented in nearly every European country as well as in North America, South America and Asia. The company has production facilities in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United States, Mexico and China.
Laser focused expertise
A TRUMPF technician at work in the 3D printing development center. The high-tech company supports the aerospace industry not only with machines, but also with its 3D printing expertise. (Image: TRUMPF)
Into space with 3D printing
With 3D printers from TRUMPF, space companies produce thrusters for satellites and space shuttles. These thrusters are particularly light and at the same time withstand extreme conditions. (Image: TRUMPF)
Faster data transmission thanks to 3D printing
Space companies can use 3D printers to print special structures. This antenna installed in a satellite ensures faster data transmission between satellites and the earth. (Image: TRUMPF)