Orion AM A150: A 3D Printer for Space

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Disclaimer: The views expressed herein by the authors in no way reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.

Orion Additive Manufacturing, a Berlin based startup focusing on making advanced 3D printing systems accessible for aerospace applications, today announced the launch of their A150, an Industrial Additive Manufacturing System for high-performance polymers 𑁋 The A150 utilizes patent-pending Thermal Radiation Heating to 3D print parts using aerospace-grade materials that are comparable to injection molded parts in strength.  The 3D printing system was designed and optimized specifically for printing with high-performance polymers, like PEEK, ULTEM and PPSU to produce components suitable for aerospace and a wide range of other applications. 


Recently, Orion AM has focused on applying their technology for 3D printing of Cubesat structures.  This leading research was part of Orion AM’s rollout of their A150 additive manufacturing system in order to prove the viability of it’s system in producing end-use parts for space. The research demonstrated that the A150 system could produce structural parts of a CubeSat in PEEK while reducing their mass by 50%.  The mass reduction further reduces the launch costs of a 1U Cubesat by up to €25.000 while trimming lead time down by up to 95%.  The key element to making 3D printing PEEK Cubesat structures viable was the use of Thermal Radiation Heating to increase inter-layer bonding and eliminate the delamination and warping effects so commonly seen in 3D printed PEEK.

The research has garnered attention internationally from both the additive manufacturing sector and the aerospace sector.  Following this research, Orion AM worked closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) to evaluate and qualify ESA’s conductive PEEK materials for space applications. This work was led by Dr. Ugo Lafont, Space Materials and Technology Specialist at ESA, who has been a prominent advocate for 3D printing of PEEK polymers for space applications at ESA.

The research with ESA led Dr Lafont to invite Adam Rumjahn, Managing Director of Orion AM, to present their research at the 5th ESA CubeSat Industry Day in June 2021. As a key speaker among about 150 invited companies, Rumjahn announced how the A150 system successfully demonstrated an 87% increase in flexural modulus in PEEK 3D printed test specimens compared to other technologies.  ESA’s event was geared towards promoting and exchanging the latest news in this Aerospace sector, and attended by many who depend on utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to gain a competitive edge - many of whom were interested in Orion AM’s solution.  As Orion AM’s technology utilizes thermal radiation, it’s 3D printers are not only viable for additive manufacturing on earth, but also for additive manufacturing in space!

As a leader in the additive manufacturing sector, Orion AM has made its mission to produce aerospace components through sustainable and accessible methods. Orion AM offers aerospace companies more cost-efficient ways to produce high-tech and demanding products, such as CubeSats which are highly customized and made in low-volumes in bespoke production. Additive manufacturing of high-performance polymers with the A150 system allows manufacturers to take advantage of all of the benefits of 3D printing, along with the benefits of superior materials without compromises.

By processing materials in a sustainable fashion through additive manufacturing with high-performance polymers, CubeSat parts printed on the A150 system can be as much as 50% lighter in weight than traditionally manufactured ones, which in turn makes them more affordable to launch and more sustainable for space missions. 

Inside the A150’s fully enclosed build chamber, the printed materials are heated evenly to temperatures as high as 300℃, which effectively bonds printed layers together into a homogeneous structure. This is made possible by the patent-pending Thermal Radiation Heating system, which directs heat to the material via radiation as opposed to other systems which heat the air. This improves inter-layer bonding, making parts more isotropic in nature, thus eliminating the delamination effect commonly seen in PEEK 3D printing.

This isotropic behaviour was evaluated by 3D printing tensile test specimens in flat, on-edge, and vertical orientations, which should all produce the same tensile strength values if the parts are isotropic. To date, the A150 system produced vertical test specimens that exhibited a tensile strength of 80% that of flat oriented PEEK specimens, achieving nearly isotropic properties. This is a great accomplishment when compared to other 3D printing processes, which have only achieved a vertical tensile strength around 10% of this value. 

Orion Additive Manufacturing sits competitively in the growing Aerospace - 3D printing industry, which was estimated to be worth €255 million in 2019 and with an expected growth rate of 18% between 2020 and 2026. In the early 2000s, it was impressive that satellites reduced in size from bus-sized machines to something a bit larger than a Rubik’s cube. As of August 2021, Orion AM will be lowering the barriers to space exploration further by modernizing additive manufacturing’s role in aerospace materials, and allowing these satellites to be even lighter.

Not only can the A150 System print parts that can withstand launches into space, but they are even resilient to the harsh environment of the deep sea, and suitable for all applications in between. Designed to suit the needs of industrial manufacturers, research institutions, and aerospace companies, the A150 system’s intentions are to broaden the horizons of current CNC manufacturing processes, and to launch additive manufacturing into a new orbit!

Learn more about Orion AM

Orion AM’s Thermal Radiation Technologies enable the next generation of 3D printers. To follow Orion AM, visit their website and LinkedIn page. The Berlin based company is led by curious minds ready to evolve Aerospace advanced manufacturing processes. By lowering launch costs while maintaining high safety standards, the A150 System will invite more players to discover the depths of the ocean and uncharted areas in space.   

A150 Technical Specification

Print Speed: 10mm/s - 400mm/s
Technology: FFF - Thermal Radiation Fusion 
Extruder Max Temp: 500℃
Bed Max Temp: 300℃
TRH* Max Temp: 300℃
TRH* (Thermal Radiation Heating) involves using thermal radiation in all directions to efficiently heat the printed object up to 300°C.

Gustav-Meyer-Allee 25
Berlin, 13355, Germany
+49 304 6403 8403
✉︎ info@orion-am.com

Additive Manufacturing of CubeSats using High-Performance Polymers: Reduce Mass Budget by Up to 50%