Miniaturized Satellite Rapid Prototyping and Development
In order to expand the research capabilities of both graduates and undergraduates working in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences (ESS), as well as the students across many departments involved with the ESS CubeSat initiative, we are requesting STF funding to acquire rapid-prototyping machinery. The request includes three separate pieces of equipment, including a 3D printer for additive process manufacturing, a CNC mill for subtractive processes, and a reflow oven for printed circuit board fabrication. Together, these three items will facilitate students to directly with and develop nearly all aspects of CubeSats and high altitude rockets. The ability to swiftly and inexpensively make components in house without the timing and use restrictions of some the larger shops on campus will both increase our chances of a UW small satellite launch and aid in fieldwork, lab work, and outreach settings across the Department of Earth & Space Sciences.
This proposal falls under the category of Machine and Research. This proposal will fund equipment to aid in the fabrication and development CubeSat components and development and will immediately benefit the 41 students working on this project. Students will gain access to the tools necessary for rapid prototyping of key satellite components, such as deployable structures, printed circuit boards, pulsed plasma thrusters, and attitude control systems.
Small satellites called CubeSats are having an increasing impact on the development of spacecraft technologies and applications. The Advanced Propulsion Laboratory in the Earth and Space Science department has recently formed a CubeSat group, the goal of which is to launch a student-built CubeSat in 2018. Student-led CubeSats projects are common among universities, but UW has yet to mature such a program. There are 41 students currently involved with the UW CubeSat program from a wide variety of majors: all the engineering departments, business, geology, computer science, and physics, to name a few. Progression of the CubeSat program is currently hindered by the lack of accessible machinery. Thus far, we have relied primarily on existing University resources, such as the Mechanical Engineering Department 3D printing lab, the WOOF 3D printing group, and the Physics machine shop.
To set up a future of success, we seek support for a rapid prototyping setup composed of three pieces of equipment: 3D printer, CNC mill, and a reflow oven. With this equipment, students will be able to realize their ideas, and additionally, our program will be able to support more students. Students will have easy access to equipment, because it will be housed in the Advanced Propulsion Laboratory where trained graduate students are present everyday.
The first piece of equipment is the Airwolf HD2X 3D Printer. While there are a variety of 3D printers already available on campus, including the mechanical engineering machine shop and WOOF 3D printing group, access to these printers are limited, frequently with a wait list, and the printing platforms are limited by size and printing substrate. The Airwolf printer was chosen because it has a large printing volume (11" x 8" x 12") which allows us to print satellite components in single full scale pieces. The Airwolf is also designed to be versatile in the types of materials it can print, with at least 22 materials currently available, and dual extruders to print in two colors or materials at the same time. This will allow students to experiment with novel approaches in satellite design, and is a technology currently utilized by many leading aerospace companies.
For parts that cannot be 3D printed, the CNC mills in either the physics or mechanical engineering machine shops have been used. Getting time on CNC mills has been very difficult for students, mainly due to the extensive training required for their operation and waiting lists. The Tormach CNC 770 Mill education package was chosen because it specially addresses the learning curve required to operate such machinery. With the education package and automatic tool changer, the learning curve for proper operation is reduced to only a couple hours, thereby greatly increasing the accessibility for students to utilize an important piece of machinery.
Another important aspect of satellite and rocket design is custom printed circuit boards (PCB). Other organizations at UW typically design PCBs and then have them manufactured by an outside company. We would like to move the manufacturing into the hands of the students: this will allow prototyping to be done more quickly and also be educational for students to understand these processes. PCB manufacturing is twofold: etching and component mounting. The CNC mill listed above can perform etching. For component mounting, we propose to purchase a Manncorp reflow oven. We are not aware of any accessible reflow ovens on campus. The selected reflow oven was chosen because it is very simple to use and it accurately simulates the performance of full scale industrial reflow ovens. With this oven students will be able to use smaller components and thus have more opportunities for their designs.
Benefits to Students and the University
The CubeSat program started by Advanced Propulsion Laboratory is designed to foster student scholarship. There are currently over 15 sub-projects led by graduate and undergraduate students, and entering group members are provided immediate hands-on experience. Due to the current difficulties with students’ lack of access to key pieces of equipment, the number of students our program can sustain is saturated. There is a large need for the equipment this proposal requests, and with it our CubeSat program will continue to flourish. The popularity of the CubeSat is based upon inexpensive access to space. A UW CubeSat is essentially an accessible platform to space which opens up countless opportunities for future students.
Beyond the immediate benefit to students within the CubeSat program, this program also offers immense potential for other scholarship pursuits. Students will be able to use the CubeSat platform for pursuing remote earth sensing, astrological measurements, and telecommunications development. Students participating in Earth and Space Sciences project classes are frequently inspired to go on to do more in depth work outside of the class; these undergraduate students would directly benefit from the ability to prototype systems quickly. Additionally, anyone affiliated with the department might use the equipment for concept visualization or the ability to quickly make adaptors for their own equipment.
I wish to give my strong endorsement to this proposal. A CubeSat group consisting of undergraduate and graduate students from Earth and Space Sciences, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Physics, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering have come together in a very ambitious project to see if UW can enter a student space race for the development of small satellites called CubeSats (only a few tens of cm in dimensions). These CubeSats have the potential to change space exploration as much as the UAV is changing general aviation. It is my belief that UW students need to be involved in such developments if we are to retain our place as an education/research institution involved in the latest technologies.
Construction of the CubeSat requires the manufacture of unique components, from the support structure itself to various retainers for individual components. Mills and 3-D printer are key components to successfully generate these unique components.
I recognize that there is a 3-D printer student group on campus. A related group of students used these printers for the development of a high power rocket. The fabrication had mixed results due to the fact that the printer was a general purpose printer and did not have right capabilities to during meet the needs of the student aerospace projects.
The proposed equipment will be invaluable to an interdisciplinary group. However, because the effort is indeed interdisciplinary with students from thee different colleges participating, Department funds cannot be used to support these very important efforts.
As such I fully endorse the students STF application.
ESS Department Chair
I would like to recommend the selection of proposal put forth by Paige Northway and Paul Sturmer for a 3D printer, a CNC mill and a reflow oven. This technology purchase would greatly enhance the learning and research capabilities for students working in the Earth and Space Sciences department.
First of all, the work occurring is very interdisciplinary and students from a variety of departments and colleges are all collaborating. There are both graduate and undergraduate students from ESS, Physics, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and so on. The students are learning to develop cutting edge technology in a collaborative environment, where students, not faculty, are the main drivers of research advancement.
A second strength of the proposal is that the requested items are key parts to develop a world class lab, developing small satellite technology. Small satellite technology is one of the revolutions of the 21st century. Low cost access to space has meant that not just governments and corporation have access to space. Now even students have access. With that access has been an explosion in student lead, space-based research regarding climate change, changes in vegetation and forest cover, and in-space technology.
The low cost access does require an investment in ground infrastructure though, for the development and fabrication of flight ready hardware. Places like CalTech, Stanford and University of Michigan are ahead of the University of Washington in that regard, but the requested investment would go a long way towards helping the UW catch up.
A third strength is that the technology requested is not applicable only to the fabrication of small satellites. They all have a multitude of uses for the development of technology on the ground, from creating airplane parts to developing low-cost technology to improve conditions in impoverished countries. The purchase would give students experience using technology that is regularly used at corporations conducting cutting edge research, providing them with additional skills that will help them secure that first job upon graduation.
-Erika Harnett, ESS Faculty
It is essential for science or engineering students to understand the design and construction of instrumentation. This understanding is best acquired through experience with real objects; software design tools or paper exercises omit much of importance. Combining the value of a physical experience with the goal of high-reliability miniaturized systems, as required for small spacecraft, one finds that specialized equipment is needed. Two highly useful tools are an accurate CNC machining system for mechanical parts, and a re-flow oven for attaching modern small-pitch integrated circuits and passives to circuit boards. Concerning the mill, the ability of a student to design and then quickly fabricate components enables the solution of technical problems, encourages student initiative, rewards the student with immediate relevant feedback, and provides valuable input to a student's concept of design, specifically ease of manufacture. Similarly, electronic circuits using highly integrated parts such as micro-controllers and memories, or even simpler integrated circuits, require equipment more sophisticated than a soldering iron for their construction. A re-flow oven is the usual solution. Having this tool in-house again provides rapid feedback to the student, enables quick parts swaps to isolate non-functioning components, and teaches about manufacturability. When working with small quantities, an in-house capability for loading circuit boards is essential. This last point has critical importance because there are few, if any, companies interested in small jobs such as attaching a handful of parts to a single circuit board. As an active experimenter and research professor, I want my students to have such experiences as they learn to develop new scientific instruments. Therefore, I fully support this proposal's effort to acquire these tools.
-Micheal McCarthy, ESS Faculty
If funded, all equipment would be installed within two weeks of arrival. Lead times including shipping vary from one to four weeks, so it could be expected that everything would be installed within six weeks from date of purchase.
Resources Provided by Department
The Earth and Space Science department will assume full responsibility for the requested equipment and provide room for the machines; four potential locations within Johnson Hall are being considered. The Advanced Propulsion Laboratory already houses equipment such as two large vacuum chambers, a drill press, a faraday cage, and pulsed plasma thrusters, and therefore the department and graduate students are already acclimated with maintenance, safety, and proper operation of delicate and potentially dangerous machinery. Support staff will be adequately available to students. Graduate students will assume the training and supervision responsibilities. Robert Winglee, who is the head of the Advanced Propulsion Laboratory and also Chair of the Earth and Space Sciences Department, is reliably contactable via cell phone in case of any urgency.
Access Restrictions (if any)
The Advanced Propulsion Laboratory, located on the second floor of Johnson Hall, is an easily accessed lab for students. During the week the lab is normally active from 9:00-6:00, but as the CubeSat program continues to mature we expect the hours to increase. Due to the interdisciplinary nature and size of our lab, anyone interested in joining the lab can find a project suited to their background. In addition to the CubeSat program, anyone affiliated with the department would have access to the rapid-prototyping equipment provided they arrange for appropriate supervision and supply their own materials.
I offer my full support for this proposal for a rapid prototyping lab to be housed in the Earth and Space Sciences department. I am a second year graduate student conducting research in plasma propulsion and small satellite magnetic measurements, which involves developing many early prototypes for testing and proof of concept displays. The department currently houses only a very small drill press and single 3D printer, which are inadequate for the needs of the lab in a number of respects, including availability, size of tools and parts, and materials with which I can work. Currently, I spend a significant amount of time devoted to re-making parts into smaller parts which can be assembled, and running to (and waiting at) the mechanical engineering machine shop. This is especially true when I am overseeing groups and individual undergraduates working on related research projects. Additionally, as we get closer to the possibility of a space launch, having the ability to quickly replicate quality components of both mechanical and electrical nature will become increasingly important. In addition to the importance of having the ability to rapidly prototype parts for lab experiments, I believe the experience of working with these machines will be a highly valuable and marketable skill for all involved undergraduate students.
-Paige Northway, ESS Graduate Student
I am a PhD student in the Earth and Space Sciences department working in the Applied Physics Laboratory, and I fully endorse a rapid prototype lab in the ESS department. My research is in glaciology, specifically radioglaciology. As the name would sound I study radio waves and how they interact with glaciers. I am also part of a project called the Ice Diver, which is a small probe that melts its way down through kilometers of ice. I have designed and tested prototypes of a small hand built radio for use on the ice, but the size constraint makes it difficult to do by hand. This is especially true with radio systems in which a wire can produce its own signal, thus tampering with transmissions. Therefore, cutting down on extraneous wiring material is essential. Having a reflow oven to solder connections on a printed board would thus be extremely beneficial to the construction and efficiency of my radio and thus my research.
-Paul Kintner, ESS Graduate Student
I am a second year PhD student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department and Astrobiology program. I fully endorse this proposal for a rapid prototyping 3D printer housed in the Earth and Space Sciences Department. My research involves the visualization and quantification of planetary topography and a dedicated 3D printer would allow me to easily visualize the landscape and look for subtle landforms that are hard to visualize on topographic maps. This is particularly useful for educational and outreach purposes. Many students in the introductory geology classes have a hard time visualizing and learning how to interpret geological maps and being able to physically see how the topography would actually look like would greatly increase their ability to do well in their future careers. A lot of my outreach with elementary and middle school kids through departmental programs also heavily relies on teaching the next generation of STEM scientists how to understand remote sensing techniques to identify landforms on Mars and make proper observations. A 3D printer (which could print in different colors to represent elevation data) housed in the department would be of great benefit for not only my own research but also in training the next generation of STEM scientists in a way that is easily visualized and comprehended.
-Steven Sholes, ESS Grad Student
I am currently a second year undergraduate in physics/astronomy at the UW, and I have been working in the Advanced Propulsion Lab (APL) for over a year. I completely endorse the proposal for STF funding to acquire a 3D printer, CNC mill, and reflow oven. My project in the lab deals with a large pendulum thrust stand that is used to measure thrust values of different electric propulsion system applications. My project in particular would greatly benefit with access to these resources. The thrust stand has a lot of mechanical parts that I either needed to machine entirely or alter by machining. Not only were some of the parts difficult to alter using crude tools in the lab—but also I am not trained to use some of the equipment and needed help from other people around the lab. If I had access to a 3D printer it would greatly reduced the time for me to acquire parts. In addition, there are parts on my thrust stand that I could have experimented with by using a 3D printer. It would greatly widen the possibilities of the functionality of the stand and the possibly increase its efficiency in measuring thrust.
-Brittney Dodson, Physics and Astronomy, Undergraduate
I am an engineer trying to build a satellite to go into lunar orbit. Although UW has some amazing resources, I've found them to be insufficient. Purchasing of a C&C milling machine, reflow oven, and 3D printer will allow me to get work done. Successfully making this satellite is very important for UW since they've never launched anything like it before and there is a rejuvenated interest in putting technology into space.
-Paul Sturmer, Physics, Graduate
I am a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, working with Professor Robert Winglee at Advanced Propulsion Laboratory, Department of Earth and Space Sciences. I fully endorse this STF proposal for rapid prototyping equipment for the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. My experimental research equipment mostly requires custom built parts, which process can be expedited with rapid prototyping equipment. For example, custom mounts for the vacuum chamber would be a great improvement to our current experimental apparatus. The current experimental set up consists of a BNC cable taped onto the vacuum chamber, with banana clips free-floating. A custom mount that can latch onto the flanges of the chamber, would be an improvement to this set up. Also, a multitude of plasma diagnostic rods are inserted into the vacuum chamber through quick disconnect. Some of the rods span the entire diameter of the chamber -- 1.5m. The long rods bend after some time, which affects the quality of data to be collected. A custom support structure made out of plastic would be a great solution to this issue.
Rapid prototyping equipment can also be used to make a miniature model of my research equipment that is housed inside of the vacuum chamber. Having a physical prop when doing any sort of outreach event is very useful in getting the audience excited about the space propulsion research. The scale of my experimental set up makes transportation not practical -- a prototype is a must. Lastly, a custom miniature rack made out of plastic would be helpful to better organize the electronic boxes that are being used for my experiment.
-Nao Murakami, Aero-Astro Engineering, Graduate Student
I am fourth year PhD student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department. I fully endorse this proposal for a 3-D printer, CNC mill and reflow oven used for electronics testing and payload integrating in the Earth and Space Sciences Department. My research involves testing electronics and making payloads that are launched by high altitude balloons. We need these stuff to design and make our payloads. The department currently does not have machinery and electronic testing equipment. The 3D printer will help us to print some parts of the payload and visualize the concept of design. The mill is desperately in need since we need to make a lot of customary housing structures. The reflow oven will greatly help us make the electronics.
-Leo Ling Zheng, ESS Graduate Student
This item allows for fast, easy and inexpensive turnover for both structural components and visualizations. A wide variety of plastics are available as print materials.
3-axis mill with control software
This machine is versatile and covers the materials like metals and polymers which are not compatible with our proposed 3D printer. Its designed for the materials we cut the most: aluminum, light metals, and plastic, but has enough horsepower to tackle the harder stuff, such as steel, when needed. Also the ability to program it will save hours of undergraduate machine-shop time, allowing them to focus on the science or instrument instead of the construction.
This item will round out our machine suite with the ability to make both parts and quality, small electronic packages.
Total requested: $33,202.18
Total funded: $0.00
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