3D Printing has been around for 30 years, however it was only recently that the technology has progressed enough to make it useful for a wide array of applications. One of these applications is in outer space. Astronauts at NASA are expected to take the first 3D printer out of the Earth’s atmosphere later next month.
Expedition 40/41 crew will be aboard the shuttle responsible for bringing this exciting machine to the International Space Station. The printer will likely be used some time this summer as the crew works on the space station. Astronaut Reid Wiseman, is one of the crew members bound for the station in May, and is excited about the prospects of having a 3D printer on board.
“Imagine if Apollo 13 had a 3D printer,” Wiseman said. “Imagine if you’re going to Mars and instead of packing along 20,000 spare parts, you pack along a few kilograms of ink. Now, you don’t even need to know what part is going to break, you can just print out that part. Let’s say your screwdriver strips out halfway to Mars and you need a screwdriver, print out a screwdriver. Really, I think for the future, that’s pretty fascinating. I really like that and it’ll be fun to play with that on orbit. I think the ground will uplink a sample and get it to print out because if they let the crew print stuff out, we’d run that thing out of ink in five minutes”
The 3D printer which will be sent to space, is manufactured by a company called Made in Space. They call the printer “3D Print”, and believe that the device will be capable of printing out close to 30 percent of the spare parts that are currently being housed at the space station. Such a printer could save NASA a tremendous amount of money. Instead of having to bring along tens of thousands of different parts on a mission, they can simply pack the “3D Print” printer and several kilograms of printer “ink”. Considering that it costs approximately $1000 in fuel for every pound of material that is launched, any cut back on supplies could save millions of dollars per launch.
This mission will be a stepping stone for the future of 3D printing in space, and could one day lead to printers capable of using terrestrial soils/dust to print bases on the Moon, or even Mars. Discuss this impending NASA mission on 3D Print Board. (Source/Photos: Space.com)
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