PARIS (ESA PR) — A standard 3D printer cannot produce anything bigger than the size limits of the printer itself. But this new IMPERIAL 3D printer, designed for use in space by a Europe-wide industrial consortium, can print high performance polymer parts of unlimited size along one dimension.
What is also known as ‘Additive manufacturing’ is an essential enabling technology for deep space crewed missions. Built to operate in weightlessness – meaning it can work upside down on Earth – 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.
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.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Improvising new stuff from the stuff you have is part of an astronaut’s job description – think Apollo 13’s crew refitting CO2 filters to save their own lives, or stranded Mark Watney in The Martian, feeding himself on the Red Planet. Now plans are underway to manufacture items in orbit, and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst argues this could make a big difference to living and working in space.
Alexander – who has spent just under a year in orbit, becoming the second European to command the International Space Station (ISS) – spoke at ESA’s Workshop on Advanced Manufacturing, which included a special session on out-of-Earth manufacturing.
NASA is continuing to encourage the use of 3-D manufacturing technologies for use on Earth and in space through the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
In addition to funding two projects by Made in Space focused on glass alloys and structures for advanced interferometery missions, the space agency also selected six other additive manufacturing proposals for funding under SBIR Phase II.
The awards, which are worth up to $750,000 for as long as two years, are focused on expanding additive manufacturing (AM) to include the use of stronger plastics and metals as well plastics recycling and improving production on Earth. One company is developing the ability to print next-generation electronics aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Several of the proposals are developing materials and technologies that would be used in a new additive manufacturing system called FabLab that NASA will launch to the station. The new printer would use multiple materials instead of just plastic feed stock to print parts and tools.
China plans to launch the core of its permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018, with full assembling of the multi-module facility due to be complete about four years later, officials said last week.
MOORESVILLE, N.C., October 29, 2015 (Made in Space, Lowe’s PR) – Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the disruptive innovation hub of Lowe’s Companies, Inc., has partnered with aerospace company Made in Space, to become the first to launch a commercial 3D printer to space. The printer, the first permanent additive manufacturing facility for the International Space Station (ISS), will bring tools and technology to astronauts in space. At the same time here on earth, Lowe’s is launching the next-generation Lowe’s Holoroom – an in-store and at-home virtual reality design tool that enables customers to envision the room of their dreams. (more…)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Made in Space PR) — History was made on November 24th at 9:28pm GMT, when the first 3D printer built to operate in space successfully manufactured its first part on the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time that hardware has been additively manufactured in space, as opposed to launching it from Earth.
“When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made In Space, Inc. “We look at the operation of the 3D printer as a transformative moment, not just for space development, but for the capability of our species to live away from Earth.”
Made in Space will fly the first 3D printer in space next year aboard a SpaceX Dragon freighter, which will deliver it for use by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, CTO Jason Dunn announced on Saturday.
Dunn told attendees at the Space Hacker Workshop in Mountain View, Calif., that this will be the first time that humans will conduct manufacturing operations off the Earth. The 3-D machine will allow astronauts to print parts and components on orbit instead of having to ship them up from Earth.
The company, which is based at the NASA Ames Research Park at Moffett Field, Calif., has been working for three years to perfect 3D printers capable of working in microgravity gravity. Dunn said the Made in Space has flown more than 400 microgravity parabolas to test out printers.
Made in Space was formed in 2010 by alumni of the Singularity University, which runs a summer program at NASA Ames in California.