Made in Switzerland: Additively manufactured for space
4 March 2020
Space: The ultimate frontier, this is the story of CSEM’S complaint mechanisms and its mission to boldly use additive manufacturing like never before.
The Compliant Rotation Reducer Mechanism or CRRM (as we’ll call it for short) is certainly no doo-hickey or thingymajig. Although its name may make your head spin, this mechanism is, in fact, an example of 3D Additive Manufacturing (AM) at its finest. Designed and fully produced by CSEM, the CRRM was created as part of development for the European Space Agency. It’s been one tough cookie to crack, but crack it we have!
Using AM like never before
Using AM, CSEM has crafted a topologically optimized monolithic compliant mechanism. In simple terms, this means an extremely complex gear mechanism formed in a single part, which has been designed as efficiently and technically as possible. As a result, the mechanism doesn’t require any complex assembly and can maintain its motion performances despite only occupying a very small volumetric space.
Thanks to CSEM’s advanced state-of-the-art know-how in Flexure elements, the CRRM is completely frictionless: no lubricant is required, no dust can build up and wear cannot be generated - maintenance is thus unnecessary. Pair this with the fact that the entire structure was printed in high-performance stainless steel means the mechanism can smoothly operate for an infinite lifetime.
And there’s more, thanks to the incredible design freedom AM now allows, CSEM’s teams have created a world first: integrating interlocked lattice flexures into the CRRM. These features ensure the mechanism is not only robust but also flexible, allowing it to withstand the vibrations and shocks that occur during a spacecraft’s launch.
Overall, all these design features have crafted a CRRM that can operate with a rotary motion reduction of 10. It is therefore ideally suited for scanning, pointing, calibration and flip mirror mechanisms within harsh space, cryogenic or vacuum environments.
World-class AM and engineering knowledge
There is no repair shop in space and thanks to the next-level AM and engineering expertise found at CSEM, the CRRM is a notable example of Compliant Mechanisms based on Additive Manufacturing. Seeing is believing, and you can witness the mechanism in action (movie above). This video shines a light over our AM competencies in innovating small-size, high-precision parts, with integrated flexible structures.
We have further complimented our AM knowledge with that of our partners in the Swiss AM industry (3D Precision in this case) to assist in the development and manufacturing of the CRRM’s flexible parts. 3D Precision will undertake the final manufacturing of CRRM, while the future performance testing of the mechanism will be executed by Almatech.