Does 3D Printing in Space make NASA’s job easier?
The 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration (3D Printing In Zero-G) experiment demonstrates that a 3D printer works normally in space. In general, a 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create 3 dimensional objects. Testing a 3D printer using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, a critical enabling component for deep-space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.
Space station or manufacturing plant? Three-dimensional printing offers a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, a huge benefit to long-term missions with restrictions on weight and room for cargo. After testing of hardware for 3D printing on parabolic flights from Earth resulted in parts similar to those made on the ground, the next step was testing aboard the space station. The test included printing items designed by students and results showed that 3D printers work normally in space. This work will contribute to establishing on-demand manufacturing on long space missions and improving 3D printing methods on the ground.
3D printing serves as a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, reducing the need for costly spares on the International Space Station and future spacecraft. Long-term missions would benefit greatly from having onboard manufacturing capabilities. Data and experience gathered in this demonstration improve future 3-dimensional manufacturing technology and equipment for the space program, allowing a greater degree of autonomy and flexibility for astronauts.
Read the full article from NASA here