Dec 13, 2011
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3D printing in space!

Dedicated to providing solutions to manufacturing in outer-space, US start up, Made in Space have recently been selected by NASA to build a 3d printer for the International Space Station.

Co-founder of Made in Space, Jason Dunn told Innovation NewsDaily that the long term goal of the project is for 3D printing to be used to create fully functioning spacecraft. The team estimate that objects “printed in space” would have a reduced structural mass (at least 30% less) than their earth made counterparts, as they would not need to survive the earths gravity or the extreme G-forces of launching into orbit.

Team at Made in Space test 3D printing in partial gravity

Team at Made in Space test 3D printing in partial gravity

To date two successful zero gravity test flights have been completed, with several commercial printers along with the teams own custom printer

design tested during two hours of aircraft dives, meant to simulate microgravity. Based on the results of these early zero-gravity tests, the team at Made in Space have decided to proceed with their own design, for an extrusion printer capable of printing objects in plastic polymers, rather than modifying an existing commercial printer.

Dunn believes that one-third of the space stations $1-billion worth of spare parts could be “built” on the zero gravity printer, with the team also starting to produce their own space-qualified polymers. “When a tool breaks, at the worst they space-station crew calls Houston and says ‘Send us a CAD file for that tool, and they’ll be able to 3D-print it. Ideally one day they will be able to design it themselves”

The project which has already seen success in the form of the worlds first partial gravity 3d printed tool, a small wrench, is eligible to receive up to $125,000 in NASA funding some time next year.

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