Spatial 3D printing and nanostructures: how Goodman Technologies is pioneering new space technologies –

In recent years, the private space industry has created a cost-competitive ecosystem as the frontiers of space exploration widen. While a growing number of private companies are heavily engaged in space launches and spaceflight, others are working ‘behind the scenes’ to develop processes, applications and technologies that will improve access to space for government agencies and private companies. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a startup is pioneering breakthrough and disruptive technologies, additive manufacturing (AM) processes, and nanomaterials for space, aerospace and defense applications, including tough coatings and mirrors, homing telescopes and windows for high energy lasers (HEL).

Founded in 2016 by engineer William Goodman, Goodman Technologies (GT) uses 3D printing processes and laminate composites to produce parts from one inch to one meter for the most extreme environments on and off Earth. Earth, like space, nuclear and cryogenics. temperatures. spoke with Goodman about how AM technologies can help create critical space parts, the future of nanostructures, and the role of startups in commercializing space.

Goodman Technologies Founder and CEO Bill Goodman. Image courtesy of Goodman Technologies

There have been remarkable innovations in space technology in recent years, so much so that within a decade the space industry has turned to AM for launchers and moving satellite parts. towards low earth orbit (LEO) and higher orbits, such as geostationary orbits (GEO). and cislunar. Undoubtedly, the space industry is growing and private investments in space startups have exploded as collaborations with 3D printing manufacturers are growing.

Goodman believes the new space community is in a phase of emergence with many amazing parallels to the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad stretching for about twenty years, starting in the mid-1840s when entire ecosystems have been developed to support the overlapping mining and transportation industries. The new space ecosystem is growing every day as the exploration, manufacturing, management and harvesting of natural resources, transportation, accommodation and other applications lead many entrepreneurs to create startups that will help this industry to flourish. develop, he explained.

The manufacture of spaceships has remained roughly the same for many decades. However, as demands increase and planned crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond seem closer than ever, space developments are continually disrupted. Today, GT uses aspects of robocasting, also known as robotic material extrusion, an AM technique analogous to direct ink writing, to print custom nanopaste, which then undergoes steps of series hardening, assembly and pyrolysis or infiltration to create complex monolithic 3D structures. .

“We’re doing this through hardware and software changes and customization of the Delta-style clay printers. Thanks to this and our proprietary Z-process, we can produce optical substrates for mirrors and structures for telescopes, armor and thermal protection systems which are technical ceramic nanocomposites.

GT has won dozens of government contracts in armor, shielding, and CubeSats, working in nanocomposites, especially ceramic-based, low-Z, low-atomic number materials for radiation environments. spatial as well as high temperature materials for things like heat. protection systems, leading edges, hypersonic, optical systems and satellites. Since its inception, the company has engaged in some of the most exciting research developments for government agencies, such as the use of its patent-pending disruptive nanoceramic materials to provide solutions to the challenges of deep cryogenic temperatures, effects nuclear and space, including space structures, space optical and optical / radio frequency systems, shielding, shielding and thermal protection.

By far, Goodman said the most difficult project was making the world’s largest silicon carbide optical substrates for two very competitive NASA Phase II projects. His team created three grades of materials over a two-and-a-half-year period before finally deciding to use a patent-pending electrically conductive nanoceramic composite silicon carbide material using new processes. After hundreds of experiments, the company has succeeded in proving the feasibility of 3D printed silicon carbide composites for ultralight mirrors and structures for large space optics and laser communication (lasercom) telescopes, which are of interest to several NASA centers, such as Jet Propulsion. Laboratory (JPL), and are intended for use in cislunar, deep space and planetary missions with orbiters-landers.

Examples of 3D printed parts for space by Goodman Technologies.

Some of the components of Goodman Technologies for space applications. Image courtesy of Goodman Technologies.

While developing breakthrough materials for harsh environments is a challenge, the leader says the nanocomposites his company creates are multifunctional, which means they’re lightweight, dimensionally stable, and radiation tolerant. As a result, they can serve as a structure, radiation shield, and thermal heat pipe for space systems, resulting in lower mass and cost of orbiting. For example, the mirrors in the space surveillance systems GT created for LEO had to survive high-energy electrons, an artificial exoatmospheric radiation event, while entering and exiting light and darkness several times a day. But it is not an easy process; it usually takes several years of design, analysis, many different types of ground testing and spaceflight to fully qualify mirrors and optical coating.

Beyond a passion for entrepreneurship and coaching other space enthusiasts who wish to create startups, Goodman is an engineer at heart, with more than 30 years of experience in the development of mirrors. lightweight and dimensionally stable and optical instrument systems for NASA and the United States Department of Defense (DoD). “I wanted to build on this experience and use new nanomaterials and emerging manufacturing processes to create whole new material systems with properties never seen before. “

Now that his company is increasingly well known within the space industry, Goodman questions the future of 3D printing in space applications and the next development that could change space exploration for future generations. : space radiation outside the magnetosphere will be the key. In fact, the useful life of astronauts is currently determined by the total dose of radiation they receive. However, outside of the Earth’s magnetic field, cosmic rays would bombard our bodies and even damage our DNA, increasing the risk of cancer and other diseases. This is why the development of nanotechnology for shields is one of Goodman’s priorities.

As for 3D printing, he expects additive manufacturing in space to be the backbone to revolutionize space exploration. “3D printing in space will be widespread because, for example, in the case of mirrors for NASA observatories, you only need a sixth of the mass of the material to make the mirrors and structures. in orbit than on Earth. This extra mass is only there to survive the launch loads. Likewise, the use of extraterrestrial natural resources such as regolith, on the Moon and on Mars will allow the manufacture of armored structures to prolong the professional life of future “extraterrestrials”.

Examples of Goodman Technologies nanocomposite systems.

Goodman Technologies creates optical systems for NASA and other agencies. Image courtesy of Goodman Technologies.

For now, however, one of the biggest challenges in unlocking the full potential of 3D printing in space is money, Goodman says. He believes GT and other companies currently have perfectly useful technology for manufacturing in space. Yet the investment required to build the manufacturing plants does not match the market timing from an investor exit point of view. For example, it would cost GT $ 30 million to develop a small factory in orbit, explains the expert. “The New Space market is funded by governments around the world, institutional investors, billionaires and even crowdfunding. A new dedicated group of space investors is emerging right now, and GT is discussing this venture with a few entities. “

Hopefully we will know more about the futuristic and innovative GT Above Ground 3D printing plant. But for now, Goodman continues to focus on the revolution in space technology and is currently developing GT Nano, a ready-to-invest spin-off company described as a ‘factory of the future’ dedicated to manufacturing nanocomposites and nanoforestry materials for Go. in public.

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