Honeywell First Takes 3D Printing to Final Frontier

Honeywell is a leader in applying additive manufacturing processes in the aerospace industry, with years of experience using 3D printing techniques to produce components for aircraft engines and other Honeywell products.

Now the Honeywell COM DEV business unit has scored another first by taking additive manufacturing of radio-frequency parts where it has never gone before – into space.

Radio frequency component hardware produced using the additive manufacturing process is now aboard the ABS-2A satellite, which was successfully launched in June by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The ABS-2A satellite is the second of two all-electric propulsion communications satellites manufactured by Boeing Satellite Systems. 

“This is the first RF passive component ever qualified for use in a space application,” said COM DEV Chief Engineer Jeff Olney. “This innovative technology places Honeywell at the forefront of manufacturing processes for space applications and opens the door for many new opportunities for us to reduce cycle time and satisfy our customers’ needs for reliable components that meet the stringent standards for spaceflight.”

The Honeywell hardware is part of the satellite’s output multiplexer system, which enables the satellite to connect with ground receivers. Now that the 3D-printed component has been qualified for use in space, it can be used in future satellite systems. The COM DEV business unit is a leading global provider of space-qualified passive microwave equipment, specialized electronics and optical subsystems.

Using additive manufacturing technologies enabled Honeywell technicians to produce the component in less than a week, compared to about eight weeks needed to manufacture the same component using conventional machining processes. As a result, Honeywell was able to meet customer requirements on an extremely tight timeline and reduce schedule risk for the launch.

Honeywell has established additive manufacturing centers in the U.S., China, India and the Czech Republic. The company has extensive experience using additive manufacturing technologies to create three-dimensional components, layer-by-layer, from digital files.