In December 2018, Lume-1 satellite, developed by Galician company Alén Space, was launched to space from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, powered by a Soyuz rocket. This device has the dimensions of a small box, and barely weighs two kilograms, but dozens of experts from many sectors collaborated in its development. Among the pieces that made it possible for everything to work perfectly, there were cylinders of just 2 millimeters long manufactured by Lupeon, a project born in 2013 by Luis Mandayo and Adrián Sánchez, young engineers from Ordes, a Galicia village, who had finished its studies and decided to bet on additive manufacturing in 3D.
“For us, it is an honor to be able to say that our work is going around the space,” explains Luis Mandayo, general director of the company. Remember that “Alén Space contacted us because they needed to manufacture pieces of small dimensions and complex geometry, which were not possible to manufacture using conventional technologies, and after studying the case we found a solution through our laser additive manufacturing technologies”.
It was one of the many milestones that Lupeon has overcome in recent years, after embarking on one of the worst moments of the crisis. “We moved from Ordes to Nigrán, where we have facilities that allow us to have industrial 3D printers for both metallic and plastic materials,” says Mandayo. In addition, he joined Vicalsa, a group based in Vigo and specialized in the construction and repair of the naval sector, and opened a commercial office in Madrid. “We also grow in team and in number of industrial customers, being suppliers of several multinationals”, completes the director of the company.
And in May of this year, months after Lupeon had put his first pieces in orbit, the news came that they were one of the companies selected in the BFAero accelerator, which emerged under the Civil UAVs Initiative program of the Axencia Galega of Innovation (GAIN). This line of projects aims at the growth of innovative companies in the aeronautical sector in Galicia, with the support of industry leaders such as Indra and Babcock. At this time, they also participated in other accelerators such as BFA, also driven by the GAIN, but focused on the automotive sector, where they developed robotic claws.
Lupeon’s work in BFAero will be based in design and topological optimization of structural parts of unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the additive manufacturing of these parts in plastic or metal composites in order to reduce the weight of these vehicles and thus achieve greater autonomy of flight. As Luis Mandayo exposes, the design and production from three-dimensional printing offers important advantages, such as “being able to manufacture different parts in such a way that they are lighter than those they manufacture today in a conventional way”. This meant, according to Mandayo, “an important step further to learn more about the needs that we can cover in the aeronautical sector.”
To obtain these and other products, Lupeon uses several technologies, both in manufacturing on demand and in series, and materials, such as plastic and metallic powder with various alloys, high precision resins or carbon fiber. Thus, the idea of additive manufacturing provides very interesting advantages when it comes to industrial repair. For example, from taking of measurements or the 3D scanning of certain pieces, they can create a virtual warehouse of spare parts so that, within the possible case of a breakage or breakdown, the same piece can be manufactured in a short period of time.