3D-MID Sun Sensor 1

Characterisation of 3D-MID for Space applications

Customer: European Space Agency (ESA)
ESA Contract No. 4000117360/16/UK/ND

Art of Technology received a contract from the European Space Agency to characterise the suitability of 3D-MID materials, technologies & manufacturing processes for use in space applications.

3D-MID Technology (using injection moulded thermoplastics) enables the integration of mechanical, electronic, optical and thermal functions into three-dimensional designs via selective metallisation, offering a high geometric design freedom and supports the miniaturisation of electronic devices. Applications such as position sensors, actuators, switches, and antennas can benefit from the manufacture of complex structures and shapes offering potentially significant savings in space, mass and weight, that cannot be realised with conventional electronic manufacturing methods.

The term MID can also include mechatronic integrated devices taking into account the fact that the three-dimensional carriers do not necessarily have to be injection moulded thermoplastics. Other materials, such as ceramics and thermosets can also be used, allowing the integration of sensors in complex structures or the integration of shielding, cooling and housing for optimal miniaturisation and weight saving. Even thermal functions such as heat dissipation and cooling can be realised using thermal conductive substrate materials and fully metallised surfaces.

3D-MID Helical Antenna

Main Benefits of 3D-MID Technology

Applications such as position sensors, actuators, switches, and antennas can benefit from the manufacture of complex structures and shapes that cannot be realised by conventional electronic manufacturing methods. The use of 3D-MID technology allows geometric design freedom which combined with selective structuring and metallisation offers a number of potential benefits leading to reduction in overall system costs.

Optimal space utilisation via high functional integration density of mechanical & electronic functions on one component

MID enabled designs allow more efficient Assembly, Integration & Test (AIT)

  • miniaturisation with significant weight savings
  • high level of precision in the ultra-fine conductor range
  • 3D layout permits defined angles between components, stacking and precision placement of components
  • reduction of assemblies through reduction of conventional interconnect devices (e.g. strip conductors directly in the enclosure)
  • rationalisation and overall system simplification via reduction of process steps, number of parts and mounting time
  • increase in manufacturing reliability due to fewer mechanical parts and processes
  • full three-dimensionality with through plating allows complex three-dimensional interconnect devices
  • production with high variance and short changeover times. Layout change of the conductor network needs no tools, just a change of the CAD layout data
3D-MID Anechoic Chamber

Our Contribution

ObjectivesScope of Work
  • characterise the suitability of 3D-MID technologies, manufacturing techniques, processes and materials for space telecom applications. Target for this activity is TRL5
  • Identify critical issues and recommendations, with respect to possible next steps, changes or modifications that may be required, lessons learned and conclusions
  • Propose possible follow on activities and road map to help increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

Phase 1: Investigation, Definition and Process Evaluation

  • Technology review & selection of space applications
  • Evaluation of manufacturing processes & selection of materials

Phase 2: Design, Manufacturing and Characterisation

  • Design, prototype definition and test planning
  • Manufacturing and assembly of parts
  • Characterisation of the manufactured part
  • Results analysis, identification of critical issues and future developments
3D-MID Sun Sensor 2


The most significant achievements realised during the execution of this project are:

  • Reduction in height and weight up to 75% compared to the sun sensors currently available, all of which use standard technology. As such, 3D-MID Suns Sensors would be ideal for use on virtually all satellites where mass is a critical parameter, in particular on micro satellites / Cubesats
  • Environmental tests (thermal cycle and life test) showed that all test vehicles survived fully functionally (without notable degradation)
  • Vibration and shock tests showed some structural damage but sufficient information to mitigate the issues was gained
  • Information gained for system engineering related to mould compatible designs and using the additional degree of freedom in placement
  • Collected information for manufacturer on space requirements for testing and assembly technology requirements (e.g. proving Au wire bonding on 3D-MID)