Project IMPERIAL

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IMPERIAL: 3D printing’s new dimension
ESA’s new IMPERIAL 3D printer can print parts much larger than itself, overcoming one of the main constraints of the process – limited build volume.

What is also known as ‘Additive manufacturing’ is an essential enabling technology for deep space crewed missions. Accordingly this printer has been specially designed with ‘out-of-Earth’ manufacturing in mind, enabling future space explorers to produce structures, tools and spare parts as needed. Built to operate in weightlessness – meaning it can work upside down on Earth – the printer is capable of printing high performance polymer parts of unlimited dimensions along a single direction.

The project was undertaken for ESA by a consortium led by OHB in Germany, with Azimut Space in Germany, Athlone Institute of Technology in the Republic of Ireland and BEEVERYCREATIVE in Portugal developing the 3D printer. Now this ground-based prototype is complete, the next step would be to test it in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

Credit: BEEVERYCREATIVE

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