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Posted

NASA To Launch First 3D Printer Into Space

 

Engineers hope the new technology will help astronauts make life-or-death repairs on the International Space Station.

 

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The 3D printer will be tested in space next year

 

NASA is preparing to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station next year after successfully testing the new technology.

 

Although the launch in 2014 is for testing purposes, the space agency hopes that one day the technique will manufacture tools, replacement parts and miniature satellites.

The process could even be used to print food for astronauts completing long-haul missions into outer space.

The technology, provided by space manufacturing company Made in Space, has been tested in zero-gravity conditions to ensure it can withstand vibrations and operate in the hostile environment of space.

Currently all missions are reliant on supplies and equipment from Earth but 3D printing could offer self-sustainable missions.

 

Aaron Kemmer, Made in Space CEO, said: "Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station.

"Rather than hoping that the necessary parts and tools are on the station already, what if the parts could be 3D printed when they needed them?"

Additive manufacturing, as 3D printing is also known, works by creating layer-upon-layer of material to build a three-dimensional object.

Dave Korsmeyer, director of engineering at Nasa's Ames Research Centre, said: "If you want to be adaptable, you have to be able to design and manufacture on the fly, and that's where 3D printing in space comes in."

 

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Posted

Star Trek imagined the future once again. Here we have the beginnings of the replicator.

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Posted

"Quick I need a Thermal Coupler, print me one!"

.... 8 hours later...

"Here, sir!..."

"What the hell is this?"

"A Thermal Coupler"

"It looks like plastic spaghetti"

"The technology isn't quite there yet...."

 

Edit: relevant link: Ars Technica

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Posted

3D printers can also print in ceramic, organic materials, cell cultures, polymer circuit elements, metals from aluminum to titanium and inconel, and other materials. This has major ramifications for everything from in space food and parts production to large format uses like printing habitats.

Here on Earth expect it to be used for those (including construction) to printing what are now manufactured goods.

There is also 4D printing, which could include printing working mechanisms.

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Posted

The problem i foresee here is power. The power requirements for printing in the harder metals would be much higher, would the ISS be able to support it?

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The ISS batteries can deliver >6kw of power and a small metal printer only draws about 400-1000w.

A new metal printer using liquid metal jet deposition was recently presented at the NY Maker Faire capable of a resolution of 50um and print speeds rivaling an inkjet. 400 watts.

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Posted

That's low, I thought they would use a lot larger amount of power.

 

So i just spent some time looking into the power of the ISS, and I was wrong, it should be completely fine.

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