A 3D printer is slated to arrive at the International Space Station next year, where it will crank out the first parts ever manufactured off planet Earth.
The company Made in Space is partnering with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment (or 3D Print for short), which aims to jump-start an off-planet manufacturing capability that could aid humanity's push out into the solar system.
"The 3D Print experiment with NASA is a step towards the future. The ability to 3D-print parts and tools on demand greatly increases the reliability and safety of space missions while also dropping the cost by orders of magnitude," Made in Space CEO Aaron Kemmer said in a statement.
"The first printers will start by building test coupons, and will then build a broad range of parts, such as tools and science equipment," he added.
The 3D printer is slated to blast off in August 2014, tagging along with a cargo mission private spaceflight company SpaceX is launching to the orbiting lab for NASA.
The device will build objects layer by layer out of polymers and other materials, using a technique called extrusion additive manufacturing. The blueprints for these objects will be pre-loaded onto a computer bound for the orbiting lab or uplinked from Earth, Made in Space officials said.
Advocates say 3D printing can help make living in space easier and cheaper.
For example, more than 30 percent of the spare parts currently aboard the International Space Station can be manufactured by Made in Space's machine, company co-founder and chief technologist Jason Dunn told NASA chief Charles Bolden and congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) during a presentation at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Ca.
Via Sakis Koukouvis