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Canada Makes, Burloak and MDA team up to create innovative satellite antenna parts

Canada Makes is a division of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), currently delivering a federal program that supports manufacturing advancement initiatives. Burloak Technologies Inc. of Oakville Ontario is the Additive Manufacturing (AM) division of SAMUEL. MDA, a Maxar company, has operations across Canada, including in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, which develops and manufactures satellite antennas and communications subsystems. These three organizations recently partnered to produce 3D-printed titanium and aluminum parts for satellite antenna applications. The projects they undertook validate that AM technology provides accelerated and cost-effective solutions for making space parts. One advantage is that AM allows designers to consolidate into “one item” a sub-assembly that would traditionally be comprised of multiple parts (including part flanges, fasteners and assembly effort for putting them together). Consequently, the single piece allows for smaller packages, mass savings and designs that could not otherwise be conceptualized with the limitations of conventional/computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing technologies.

Canada Makes enabled, with funding from the National Research Council (NRC) through its Metal Additive Demonstration program, the manufacturing development and build of the following two parts at Burloak Technologies:

3D Printed Titanium HRM Bracket (7 ¼” x 6 ¾” x 3 ½”)

3D Printed Aluminum Quad-Antenna (3” x 1 ½” x 2 ¾”)

For the Titanium Antenna Hold Down and Release Mechanism (HRM) bracket, the approach was to take a conventionally/CNC-machined part and build it using AM techniques without making any changes to the design. The goal was first to ascertain if it was indeed printable, and to also measure the time and cost savings of AM compared to conventional/CNC machining approach.

For the Aluminum Quad-Antenna, the objectives were to minimize wall thickness to make the part as compact and as light as possible, to obtain as-printed smooth walls to minimize RF losses, and to establish compensation techniques to cancel-out the 1G sagging effect of unsupported 45° ceilings during printing.

Through this Canada Makes initiative, MDA and Burloak were able to successfully prove that AM of the titanium HRM bracket resulted in cost and schedule savings in the order of 40%. Similarly, MDA and Burloak successfully proved that the aluminum Quad-Antenna was printable with smooth surfaces (64 micro-inch), thin walls (as low as 0.012”) and with the ability to compensate for the 1G effect on 45° unsupported ceilings.

“This is yet another example of how additive manufacturing is transforming how satellite parts are being manufactured,” said Eric Amyotte, MDA Vice President, Antennas and Electronic Products. “These parts were 3D printed by Burloak and then tested by MDA. Canada Makes is definitely helping to fast-track the acceptance of AM for space application.”

“One of the objectives of the Canada Makes program is to stimulate the Canadian additive manufacturing industry, and the two highlighted successful projects definitely promote the use of AM,” said John Rodic, Program Manager at Canada Makes.

The Metal Additive Manufacturing Demonstration Program is delivered by Canada Makes through funding by the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). The program is designed to increase Canadian industry’s awareness and assist in their understanding of the advantages of metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology. Canada Makes works with a group of AM experts who provide guidance to participating companies with respect to the advantages, business opportunities, cost savings and efficiencies of AM.

About MDA
MDA is an internationally-recognized leader in space robotics, space sensors, satellite payloads, antennas and subsystems, surveillance and intelligence systems, defence and maritime systems, and geospatial radar imagery. MDA’s extensive space expertise and heritage translates into mission-critical defence and commercial applications that include multi-platform command, control and surveillance systems, aeronautical information systems, land administration systems and terrestrial robotics. MDA is also a leading supplier of actionable mission-critical information and insights derived from multiple data sources. Founded in 1969, MDA is recognized as one of Canada’s most successful technology ventures with locations in Richmond, Ottawa, Brampton, Montreal, Halifax and the United Kingdom. MDA is a Maxar company (TSX: MAXR) (NYSE: MAXR). For more information visit www.mdacorporation.com and www.maxar.com.

About Burloak
A leader in the additive manufacturing industry, Burloak Technologies provides engineering and designs for additive manufacturing, materials development, high precision CNC machining, post-processing and metrology. Burloak is a supplier to leading aerospace, space and energy companies and is registered to AS9100D, ISO9001 and is Canada Controlled Goods Approved. Burloak Technologies is a division of Samuel. For more information, visit www.burloaktech.com.

About Samuel
Founded in 1855, Samuel, Son & Co. is a family-owned and operated integrated network of metal manufacturing, processing and distribution divisions. With over 5,000 employees and 100+ facilities, Samuel provides seamless access to metals, industrial products and related value-added services. Supporting over 40,000 customers, we leverage our industry expertise, breadth of experience and the passion of our people to help drive success for North American business – one customer at a time. For more information, visit www.samuel.com.