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Astronauts on ISS have used a 3D printer, shipped to the station on the last Dragon flight, to print the first item ever manufactured in space.
“Everything worked exactly as planned, maybe a little better than planned,” Kemmer told NBC News. He said only two calibration passes were needed in advance of the first honest-to-goodness print job, which finished up at 4:28 p.m. ET Monday and was pulled out of the box early Tuesday. “It’s not only the first part printed in space, it’s really the first object truly manufactured off planet Earth,” Kemmer said. “Where there was not an object before, we essentially ‘teleported’ an object by sending the bits and having it made on the printer. It’s a big milestone, not only for NASA and Made In Space, but for humanity as a whole.”
The part made was a faceplate for the printer itself. This printer is a demonstration project, launched to test the engineering and to see how 3D printing operates in weightlessness. Eventually the goal is to have most of the spare parts on a interplanetary vehicle manufactured in space in this manner, using a supply of standard material, called feedstock, that would be much cheaper to ship from Earth.