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Gogo turns to Quickparts for inflight Wi-Fi antenna prototyping

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Gogo is the world’s largest provider of broadband connectivity services for the business aviation market. The company offers a customizable suite of smart cabin systems for highly integrated connectivity, inflight entertainment and voice solutions. Gogo’s products and services are installed on thousands of business aircraft of all sizes and mission types from turboprops to the largest global jets.

Gogo had a major product announcement coming up at a key trade show. Their Marketing department planned an event around the announcement at the show that included key players, the show booth, and more. Everything was ready – from the drape to cover the piece to more than 75 event attendees, with executives from the company and dozens of customers including the nine business aircraft manufacturers and some installers. The only missing component was the prototype antenna. Gogo had used 3D printed prototypes in the past, but they noted that all of them looked 3D printed. Some had a matte finish, clearly visible layers, or other unwanted aspects. None looked exactly like the final piece would.

Gogo turns to Quickparts for airline wi-fi prototyping This antenna boasts a lower profile than any other on the market. It is also smaller and more lightweight than the average satellite antenna necessary for inflight Wi-Fi connectivity, making it ideal for business-class jets, especially those with a small fuselage (where the antenna mounts) and with less cabin capacity but still have a need to remain connected, even during flights. It’s also not just the antenna – it’s the “guts” of the Wi-Fi system, the components that allow the connectivity to work and the connection to the network.

Despite the piece’s small size compared to others on the market, Gogo had a difficult time finding a 3D printer who would take the project and meet their timeline – only a week away. “Every other 3D printing company told me it was too big and would have to be printed in multiple pieces, would have a layer thickness that wouldn’t be smooth enough to work as a concept model showpiece, or the lead time to get printed would cause us to miss the trade show,” said Brandon Fichera, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Gogo Business Aviation.

They submitted their drawing to five separate 3D print suppliers. Among these, Quickparts was able to print it as a single piece and paint it in the time frame required. Quickparts recommended using stereolithography (SLA) for the prototype to help speed up production and ensure Gogo received a finished part in time that met their need. SLA can produce show-ready parts that look just like the final production piece. The prototype is large – 60.2 × 24.6 × 6.1 cm – and made from Accura 25 material. Gogo Business Aviation also needed the piece finished with paint in a glossy white with no texture.

For clientele who can afford to purchase a $30 million jet, looks matter. “Even for a prototype, it needs to look as close as possible to the real thing,” said Derek Bernard, Manager, Event Marketing for Gogo Business Aviation. “This part from Quickparts looks as close as it could get.”

Dave Mellin, PR & Communications Director for Gogo Business Aviation, agreed with Brandon’s assessment. “This piece was critical to our show experience,” he said. “It was literally the centerpiece of the show booth.” He went on to note that the piece is of better quality than the antennas they’d had 3D printed in the past. “You can tell they’re 3D printed,” said Dave. “This one looks like the real thing.”

“Quickparts was able to handle a large, 3D print with a nice, high-gloss paint finish, in a highly compact time schedule,” said Brandon. “We really appreciate the work that went into helping this all come together within one week.”

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