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3D Printed 'Blisk' Manufactured In Orbit

A "blisk" - that's a bladed disk turbine - has been 3D printed in one piece in orbit, another triumph for Made In Space manufacturing on the International Space Station.

The microwave-sized CMM makes parts via "stereolithography," which uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser and UV-curable resin. This 3D-printing technique can make complex objects such as turbine blisks with a high degree of accuracy, Made In Space representatives said.

The CMM is a pathfinder, a machine designed to demonstrate that intricate and economically important ceramic components can be made in microgravity for use here on Earth. And Made In Space thinks there's good reason to take the manufacture of such objects off the planet.

"Manufacturing turbine components in microgravity could produce parts with better performance, including higher strength and lower residual stress, due to a reduction in defects caused by gravity, such as sedimentation and composition gradients," company representatives wrote in a description of the CMM this past September. "This technology demonstrates potential use of the space station for unique manufacturing capabilities which could increase commercial utilization of ISS."

(Via Space.com.)

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote in 1978 about orbiting factories that could manufacture things in space under microgravity. Eventually, we could get to automated orbital factories like those described by William Gibson in 1988 in Mona Lisa Overdrive.

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