First 3D Printer In Space?
NASA is working on a microgravity-optimised 3D printer to send up the International Space Station. The 3D printer is expected to launch later this month.
(NASA's microgravity-optimised 3D printer)
NASA astronaut Timothy J Creamer, who spent more than six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2010, explained the benefits of 3D printing in space.
“I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission,” he said. “I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one.
“Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it.”
Developed under a NASA contract by commercial company Made In Space, the printer will be tested aboard the ISS and, if successful, will be used as the basis for a commercial-scale 3D printer known as the Additive Manufacturing Facility, or AMF.
This will serve as a kind of extraterrestrial maker space by not only enabling the quick printing of replacement parts, but also as a research tool that can be used by Earth-based academics to 3D print in space.
I guess it's too early to think that we now have orbiting factories, like the ones in Arthur C. Clarke's still excellent 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, but we're definitely getting there.
"...What is it?"
"The result of two hundred years of solid-state physics. For whatever good that does, it is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal - though it's not actually pure carbon. There are several trace elements in carefully controlled amounts. It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories, where there's no gravity to interfere with the growth process."
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