While 3D printing is a fascination unto itself, what’s even more so? 3D printing in space. 3D printing when you have no control over gravity. And while we’re at it, what about 3D printing sideways?
Science buffs and technogeeks love experimenting. Sometimes we just like to see what would happen if we … did this. Taking us out of our comfort zone, and definitely experimenting way, way out of the box with 3D printing—and across the board, literally, Angus from Maker’s Muse guides us through an experiment with the initial caveat that “no sane person would do this.” So, of course, we were all in for checking it out.
With the idea of a 3D printer in space, printing at zero-G at the ISS, the team at Maker’s Muse had some curiosity about what it would be like to do that, as most of have wondered. What happens during printing with no gravity? With the quest to see what happens with the material, Angus set out to do some rather unusual 3D printing, and reported back on what happened to his various finishes.
Referring to it as a “bulletproof machine,” the UP Plus 2 3D printer was the equipment chosen by Angus for this project.
“It was quite tricky working it as I had to put it upside down,” stated Angus. “I did a test right-way up as you would use it normally, and then upside down, and then just for a laugh I did it also on its side just to see what effects the gravity in that orientation would give to the print.”
Beginning with a smaller sized sphere of about 20 mm in diameter that didn’t yield any exciting results or differences, Angus went looking for trouble with a much larger size of about 60 mm on a fast-draft setting using a red PLA. Trying to get as much ‘droop’ as possible, he noted that the bottom was rough but the rest of the print looked very good. With the upside down test, he noticed very little difference. There was a bit more interesting variation in printing sideways, as one side did show a bit more droop.
“Comparing them all together, there’s not really much difference at all,” said Angus.“It’s quite interesting to see how the orientation has little effect on the quality.”
Incredulously, and not just a little disappointed, Angus noted that no matter which way he 3D printed, there just wasn’t really much difference—even when he manipulated the 3D printing situation while using a large size on faster draft.
While 3D printing in zero gravity has been developed for use in space for to assist in a number of critical (and non-critical) situations like maintenance and further down the road extreme sustainability, we don’t really have a lot of need to go all topsy-turvy here on Earth. That’s the boring truth, but if you are in a situation where you need to 3D print upside down in an alternate universe you may have the good (or bad) luck to enter—or if you are shot into space—or, much more likely, you just want to blow your friends’ minds, the consensus here would be that it’s entirely possible.
Who knows where this idea may lead one day if you want to take your 3D printing in another direction altogether for an extended period of time. While that would take an, um, er, different sort of person, we all know that the foundations for many of our most groundbreaking inventions were built on much zanier, eccentric ideas.
Is this something you’d like to try too? If you do, please share your results with us over at the 3D Printing Upside Down forum thread over at 3DPB.com.