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NASA today released a video of engineers unpacking a box of 3D parts that had been printed on ISS and then returned to Earth for testing.
Some more details here.
The goal, Bean continued, is for NASA to develop a database of mechanical properties to see if there’s any difference in mechanical strength between identical items made in space and on Earth. During the interview last month, Bean said that while NASA didn’t yet have any hard data, there had been initial indications from videos made on the space station, that the plastics used in the 3D printing there had “adhered differently” than those in the terrestrial test. “The astronauts trying to get the parts off the plate,” Bean said, found that the plastic “seemed to be a little more stuck than on the ground.” He said that while it was too early to tell if that was actually true, his guess was that if so, “it may be due to a lack of convection in zero-gravity.”
Understanding the engineering issues of 3D printing in space will make it possible for crews to carry far less cargo on long interplanetary journeys. Instead, they would carry a much smaller amount of raw material, which they could use to manufacture items as needed, then recycled.