Boeing Boosts Future Innovators with New Space Lab Grant

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In a stride toward the future of space exploration and additive manufacturing (AM), Boeing (NYSE: BA) has partnered with the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs to launch an Additive Manufacturing Space Lab. This collaboration merges cutting-edge technology with active earning to help inspire the next wave of space pioneers.

A nonprofit organization, the Space Foundation was founded in 1983 to advocate for and support the global space community through educational programs, industry partnerships, and outreach initiatives. It has been a source of information, education, and collaboration within the international space ecosystem. Now, with Boeing’s grant, the Discovery Center in Colorado is set to enhance its educational programs through the 826-square-foot Boeing Additive Manufacturing Space Lab. This lab is not just a room filled with printers; it’s a space to understand 3D design, printing, and the wide range of AM and fabrication methods that have helped transform the space and manufacturing industries.

3D Printing Progress

The lab’s mission is to reshape how students learn, enhance visitor experiences, and boost global engagement. Interactive digital activities and state-of-the-art technology will fill the space, creating an immersive environment for anyone who enters. Exhibits will delve into the AM industry, showing off the technology that has impacted the number of applications being built—both on Earth and beyond.

Space Foundation CEO Heather Pringle commented, “Boeing’s commitment to education aligns seamlessly with our mission, and we are immensely grateful for their continued support in propelling our Space Foundation Discovery Center to the forefront of innovative educational offerings. This generous grant will fuel the creation of a new state-of-the-art Additive Manufacturing Space Lab, empowering educators, inspiring students, and connecting with partners worldwide. We are excited to continue this transformative partnership with Boeing, working hand in hand to inspire the next generation of space innovators.”

Space Foundation CEO Heather Pringle. Image courtesy of the Space Foundation.

Boeing’s involvement in advanced manufacturing, particularly in using AM for satellites, has established the company as a leading force in this arena. This approach has allowed the company to build components more efficiently and cost-effectively than traditional manufacturing methods. Boeing has integrated 3D printed parts into both its commercial and defense satellites. For example, advances in its commercial aviation business allowed Boeing to incorporate 3D printed parts into the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has resulted in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved components. These lighter parts help make the whole plane more efficient.

Since the 2010s, Boeing has been investing in innovative startups that push the boundaries of 3D printing through HorizonX, a venture capital investment platform formed in partnership with AE Industrial. The firm also established the Boeing Additive Manufacturing Network, a platform designed to promote collaboration between Boeing, its suppliers, and partners in the AM industry. This network aims to accelerate the development and integration of 3D printed parts across Boeing’s product lines, from commercial airplanes to space systems.

Future Frontiers

Boeing’s push into 3D printing for more eco-friendly aviation is not just about a commitment to the environment; it’s smart business, helping to improve operations and cut costs. Boeing’s commercial, defense, and space missions, like the Starliner spacecraft, are all seeing the advantages of AM.

“The space domain is no longer the future of human discovery and national defense — it is the here and now, and students need the right skills to meet today’s moment,” said Kay Sears, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space, Intelligence and Weapons Systems. “We are proud to support the Space Foundation’s new additive manufacturing lab at the Discovery Center in Colorado, which will serve as an important resource for students to learn through hands-on training and experience.”

This latest partnership addresses the skills gap in related fields by developing lab programming and encouraging a diverse and inclusive learning environment from first grade onward. This initiative is expected to boost essential skills for careers in additive manufacturing. The lab’s integration with the Discovery Center’s other experiences, such as the Drone Lab and Lockheed Martin Mars Robotics Lab, will improve education. By leveraging 3D printing technology, the lab seeks to promote cross-disciplinary connections and a comprehensive understanding of advanced technologies.

As the Space Foundation Discovery Center moves ahead with its renovation and expansion, it promises a site of inspiration and innovation for students, educators, and the global community. This lab shows the potential of AM in shaping the future of space exploration and the importance of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges.

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