The first permanent 3D printing facility on the International Space Station (ISS) is being made possible thanks to a partnership between Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Made In Space, the creators of the first 3D printer in space. While Made In Space prepares the new Additive Manufacturing Facility, Lowe’s Innovation Labs will be working with Lowe’s Corporations to launch the next-generation Lowe’s Holoroom. The new virtual reality design tool allows customers to create the room of their dreams both in-store and at-home using advanced virtual reality technology.
After their first working 3D printer was sent into orbit and successfully tested by astronauts on the ISS, Made In Space quickly announced that they were developing their new Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) that would include the second generation of their Zero-g 3D printer. The AMF will be the first permanent off-planet 3D printing facility and will provide both NASA and the US National Laboratory onboard the ISS the ability to manufacture hardware, tools and replacement parts on demand without having to wait weeks or even months for them to be created on Earth until they are eventually sent up to them.
“For the first time, astronauts can now manufacture what they need, when they need it in space. We have successfully demonstrated the technology’s capabilities in space. And now with the launch of the permanent additive manufacturing facility to the ISS, we are enabling humanity to manufacture things off the planet,” said founder of Made In Space Jason Dunn.
As the first commercially available manufacturing service in space, the AMF will make Lowe’s the very first retailer to have a presence in space. The 3D printer will be controlled from the mission operations center at MIS HQ in the NASA Ames Research Park, where Lowe’s branded hardware can be designed and then digitally transmitted up to the space station to be printed out remotely or by technicians on the station. The Lowe’s AMF is expected to arrive on the ISS some time in early 2016 and they will also be installing a replica of the AMF that will be on the ISS in one of their Bay area store locations where customers can have objects printed with the Made In Space 3D printer.
“Lowe’s and Made in Space share a vision of how 3D printing can revolutionize retail and home improvement, while also changing the way astronauts work in space. This is just the beginning of a broader partnership with Made in Space that will bring tools to space and new technology to Earth,” explained Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs.
Check out this video about the Made In Space and Lowe’s partnership and the future of the first hardware store in space:
Lowe’s Innovation Labs introduced their first Lowe’s Holoroom proof of concept back in 2014 and successfully tested the augmented reality design experience in several Toronto area stores for six months. After the initial test phase, Lowe’s is now set to instal the next-generation Lowe’s Holoroom in 19 stores throughout the United States within the next month. Originally conceived as a single platform augmented reality solution for in-store use, the technology has evolved into a mobile virtual reality design and visualization tool. The Holoroom uses Oculus Rift technology to design a 3D room in-store and then consumers can take it home with Google Cardboard viewers.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs worked closely with Google to create their shareable Holoroom experience. It combines YouTube’s 360-degree video capabilities with Google Cardboard so customers can take their virtual kitchen or bathroom designs home to share them online or make further revisions to the design. Lowe’s hopes to eventually install the Holoroom technology in all of their 1,845 home improvement and hardware stores throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“The next-generation Holoroom continues to fulfill our long-term vision for how augmented and virtual reality technologies can help customers have more confidence and more fun with home improvement. We can’t wait to see what our customers create as they bring their imagination to life with these new tools,” Nel continued.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs was launched back in 2014 to help the company develop state of the art technologies and to form partnerships with uncommon partners with a mutual commitment to bring advanced 3D technology into the retail space. In that short time Lowe’s Innovation Labs has already collaborated with several startups to develop the Lowe’s Holoroom and their autonomous retail service robot called the OSHbot. Lowe’s was one of the first large retail companies to embrace 3D printing services, and they already have thousands of customers using their 3D scanning and printing services to print custom or hard-to-find replacement parts for household appliances or fixtures.
Discuss this partnership in the Lowe’s/Made In Space forum thread on 3DPB.com.