In 2017, we linked back up with a new group of engineers at Lockheed Martin ATC. This time they were developing an entirely new space-bound photo sensor nicknamed SPIDER (Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance) backed by DARPA. By 2017, the team had a fleet of MakerBot 3D printers including their tried and true Replicator 2s, and the recently released Replicator+ and Z18 which were the first in the connected MakerBot ecosystem. The benefit of SPIDER was to reduce the size of the imaging payload of a satellite, allowing for additional payloads to be incorporated into the satellite – pushing imaging technology to be smaller, more powerful, and more versatile.
By then, the team was using their MakerBot 3D printers for both prototyping and lab tools. “They’re basically running non-stop, all day long, and have enabled a lot of really quick iterations for parts that may have otherwise slowed completion of the final product,” said Guy Chriqui – a senior research engineer at ATC. Desktop 3D printing at Lockheed Martin had clearly taken a big step from a simple accessible printer, to a web connected platform.