November 26, 2014

The first object 3D printed in space

The first 3D printed thing in space is, fittingly, a part for a 3D printer. The faceplate was printed on November 24 on the International Space Station.

“We chose this part to print first because, after all, if we are going to have 3-D printers make spare and replacement parts for critical items in space, we have to be able to make spare parts for the printers,” Werkheiser said. “If a printer is critical for explorers, it must be capable of replicating its own parts, so that it can keep working during longer journeys to places like Mars or an asteroid. Ultimately, one day, a printer may even be able to print another printer.”

3D printers are deemed crucial for space exploration, since the logistics of carrying all the possible spare parts alone are staggering. Aptly named company Made In Space is betting on this, and it was they who worked with NASA on this experiment. There were issues though, and it’s a learning mission for now, because it would seem that 3D printing in micro-gravity offers makes the plastic material behave differently.

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