The ‘Metalized RF filters for satellites’ research led by Carmen Bachiller, finalist for the TCT Awards 2023

The research on metalized high-frequency additive manufacturing filters for space communications, led by Professor Carmen Bachiller from ETSIT-UPV and a researcher from ITEAM, in collaboration with ITQ, AIJU, and ESA-VSC, has been nominated as a finalist for the TCT Awards 2023, international awards that recognize outstanding projects in the field of additive manufacturing.

One of the objectives of the ALFREC3D project (INNVA1/2020/84) was the development of communication filters for space use using additive manufacturing with metalized polymer materials and surface mount technology (SMT). SMT metalized filters provide all the necessary conductive properties for communication satellites, but they are smaller, lighter, more cost-effective, and sustainable. This means a reduction in the weight and volume of the satellite’s payload.

Additive manufacturing technologies, due to their unique characteristics, allow for the development of a wide spectrum of structures and can use an extensive range of polymer and metallic materials. In addition, this technology saves assembly steps, allows for flat surfaces and high dimensional precision, facilitating and accelerating manufacturing.

The benefits in terms of weight reduction are evident, but there are also environmental benefits as a significantly lower amount of metal is used in the manufacturing of the parts. For example, one of the developed devices would have required 290.28 grams of metal, while with this method only 71.69 grams of material were used: 1% metal and the rest polymer. Manufacturing costs are also 2.5 times more economical using this technology compared to traditional techniques.

Furthermore, during the project, complete qualification tests of the technology for space communications were carried out, subjecting the filters to high-temperature gradients, mechanical stress, and high-power levels necessary for space applications. The filters successfully passed the tests and validated the technology for space use.

The research carried out in ALFREC3D continues in the CAFTAM project (INNEST/2022/124), with the aim of translating the experimental results into high-performance devices that the industry can manufacture with great commercial versatility. The CAFTAM project is a collaborative experimental development initiative, led by the Institute of Telecommunications and Multimedia Applications (ITEAM) of the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (UPV), in collaboration with AIJU, the Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIC-ITQ), and the company DISMUNTEL. Both projects have been financed by the Valencian Agency of Innovation (AVI).

The developments carried out have been submitted to the prestigious TCT Awards, which will be announced on June 7, 2023, in Birmingham, UK. These awards are an annual celebration of the best innovations and applications of 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology worldwide. They have been selected as finalists in the Aerospace and Defense Applications category, with the development titled “Metalized RF filters for Satellites”.