Research: Production of large-area meshed metal wire for use in the space industry
„It would be a huge success if metallic knitted fabrics which are developed and produced in Münchberg would be used in space,“ says Prof. Dr. Frank Ficker, head of the the Application Center Textile Fiber Ceramics (TFK) at Hof University of Applied Sciences. The Hof University of Applied Sciences and the TFK Münchberg have developed a process, together with the companies HPS GmbH and Iprotex GmbH & Co. KG, which makes it is possible to create large-area metal mesh with wires in a thickness range of a few micrometers on industrial scale.
An almost predestined application for the use of this new process is the production of space antennas. Within the framework of the EU project „Large European Antenna“ (LEA), a reflector with a diameter of eight meters has been built during summer and autumn 2020. The production of the metal mesh used in the process was started in August 2020. According to Prof. Dr. Frank Ficker, first prototypes are already successfully manufactured at the Campus Münchberg. In the near future, there will be a decision by the European Space Agency ESA on which research institutions and companies will be involved in a further development of the system in the future.
Telecommunications: reflectors knitted from wafer-thin metal meshes
The development of highly reflective textile metal meshes is in demand at the field of aerospace in Europe since the metallic knitted fabrics are light and foldable and have a low packing size. The reflectors made out of fine woven fabric are installed in satellite antennas, which are used for telecommunications and earth observation. Thereby the size of the reflector and the type of textile covering depends on the amount of the data transmitted. For the transmission of frequencies in ka-band range extremely narrow-meshed metal knitted fabrics are required, which can be mounted on reflectors with a diameter of up to 20 meters.
Also in other areas of application for fibrous meshes, with high requirements in terms of low weight and packing size, coupled with the high electrical conductivity of mesh material, solutions with the new process are conceivable.
Especially for the production and marketing of these innovative metal knitted fabrics, the two companies HPS and Iprotex with equal shares of ownership, founded a new Company, namely HPTex. The TFK in Münchberg also supports HPTex with its expertise in research & development in the transfer of the textile manufacturing process from the laboratory to industrial scale.
EU project „Large European Antenna“ (LEA)
The European Space Agency ESA and the European Commission support the Development of antenna components within the EU project LEA. With this project, the independency of European space missions should be promoted.
Prof. Dr. Frank Ficker
Fon: +49 (0) 9281 / 409 4540