While Elon Musk has recently been making headlines for his plan to get the human race to Mars, a group of pioneering space exploration and 3D printing entities have recently decided to join forces and get us manufacturing outside of Earth’s orbit as well. Earlier today, Enterprise In Space (EIS), a nonprofit program of the National Space Society (NSS), and the Kepler Space Institute have announced that they’re collaborating with Made In Space, Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology to launch the “Print the Future” competition.
The competition is aiming to innovate the current state of space manufacturing technology, which has greatly progressed under the direction of Made In Space. The organization has installed two 3D printers aboard the International Space Station, one of which is the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the first commercial 3D printer in space. The contest will give university teams an opportunity to have their own design 3D printed in a NewSpace experiment on the ISS.
“An essential technology to extending humanity’s reach in space is in-space manufacturing,” said NSS Director and Made In Space Co-Founder and Chief Engineer Michael Snyder. “By manufacturing new designs in space, we’ll be able to forgo the high cost of shipping supplies by rocket and instead fabricate them directly in microgravity.”
EIS and the Kepler Space Institute are encouraging teams to design an object that can be printed in the microgravity conditions on the ISS, and will help humanity with our attempted expansion throughout the stars. Each design will be judged on the following criteria; scientific merit, engineering merit, commercial potential, and originality. The designs must also meet the requirements of the AMF 3D printer, and also demonstrate that it can assist our species in interplanetary transport, construction, and habitation. All submissions will be uploaded to the 3D modeling community Sketchfab, and all finalists will have their projects prototyped through the 3D Hubs network.
The grand prize winning university team will get the chance to work with Made In Space to 3D print their design on Earth before having it sent to the ISS printer. The project will then be sent back from the ISS, and the teams will be able to study the results utilizing Prairie Nanotechnology’s advanced research equipment. In addition, three team members of the winning group will receive R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships, which are valued at $5,000 each and can be applied towards a full certificate program at the Kepler Space Institute. The scholarship aims to encourage innovation in space technologies, looking to construct a societal framework that will aid the global community extend life throughout our solar system and beyond.
The contest deadline is February 15, 2017, so if you’d like to see your design 200 miles above Earth’s orbit, head to Enterprise In Space’s website and get more information on how you can participate in the Print The Future competition. Discuss in the Print the Future forum at 3DPB.com.