A 3D printer intended for installation on ISS in 2014 has successfully proven it can work in weightlessness.


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A 3D printer intended for installation on ISS in 2014 has successfully proven it can work in weightlessness.

Three prototype versions of space manufacturing startup Made in Space’s 3D printer showed their stuff during four airplane flights that achieved brief periods of microgravity via parabolic maneuvers, company officials announced today (June 19).

Then there’s this:

“The 3D printer we’re developing for the ISS is all about enabling astronauts today to be less dependent on Earth,” Noah Paul-Gin, Made in Space’s microgravity experiment lead, said in a statement. “The version that will arrive on the ISS next year has the capability of building an estimated 30 percent of the spare parts on the station, as well as various objects such as specialty tools and experiment upgrades.” [emphasis mine]

If this claim is true, this printer will do a lot to make interplanetary space travel far more likely. It will mean that travelers far from home will be able to manufacture the spare parts they need, on demand, should something break. This will save a lot of weight, compared to carrying pre-made spare parts.

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8 comments

  • Let’s see, we now have communicators, replicators, and a theoretical basis for warp drive. We’re getting there.

  • Can it make an AE-35 unit?

  • joe

    HAL will make sure it quits even if you put a new one in! many warships had there own machine shop on board to make repairs, how feasible would it be for an astronaut to make repair parts on a journey to mars, man will make the trip, is colonization going to happen?

  • Peter Fenstermacher

    The SYFY series “Firefly” episode “Out of Gas” dealt with the consequences of not having a critical spare part.

  • Peter Fenstermacher

    Raw materials for the printer can be even further reduced if they can figure out how to recycle the material from the original part. One of the spares that they should carry is a spare 3D printer! Let’s not forget the utility of creating structures from asteroidal material. The only real barrier to extra-terrestrial living will be the availability of water. Perhaps that barrier can be removed if a source of oxygen can be found to combine with the atomic hydrogen in the solar wind. What incredible possibilities the 3D printer introduces!

  • And one of my favorite episodes.

  • D. K. Williams

    I believe the 4D printer will make teleportation possible, thus dispensing with the need for expensive space ships.

  • Pzatchok

    The real problem with recycling materials is the air quality.
    Most recycling of chemicals and some metals uses some pretty strong acids and other chemicals. Keeping these chemicals out of the common air system would pose a large problem along with the problem of cleaning the air of all those chemicals. Some of those chemicals could literally eat right through standard air filters leaving you with just more mess to clean up.
    They first must come up with a air filter system that if totally recyclable. A system that doesn’t use normal type filters that would need replacing or cleaning.

    The second real problem with recycling some materials would be the huge energy consumption. Lets just say that with some materials it takes as much energy to recycle it as it took to create or mine it in the first place.

    Once both of those problems are overcome mankind will be able to directly mine asteroids and manufacture everything he needs from what he finds in space. He will have no need to return to Earth for anything. He would have become a true space inhabitant.

    The next great leap for mankind will be faster than light communication.
    With that he could directly control robots on far distant outposts around the solar system, if not the universe. With no time lag robots wouldn’t need huge on board computing systems. Those could be left back at base.
    With a faster than light internet we could have a network spanning the whole of the solar system in not the galaxy. Anything invented or designed on Earth could instantly be transmitted to any other place and built using those great 3d printers.

    3D printing manufacturing has a huge place in man kinds space future but we do have a few more hurdles to make before interstellar travel is feasible at slower than light speed.

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