Report: 3D printing in space

A new report released today [pdf] from the space think tank Intro-act provides a nice detailed summary of the economic and technological state of 3D printing industry in space.

The report first outlines the types of 3D printing presently available, using plastics and metals, and then outlines the advantages of printing things in orbit rather than carrying them up from Earth. Essentially, 3D printers are the real version of replicators seen in sci-fi movies, except that reality requires much more complexity, including a whole range of different machines designed for specific materials and final products.

The report lists four companies of note:

Made in Space (acquired by Redwire Corp.), Relativity Space, and AI SpaceFactory are the leading companies in the 3-D printing segment. With the addition of Vaya Space, the list provides a more comprehensive overview of the companies that are pioneering the use of 3-D printing technology in the realm of space exploration and development, showcasing the diverse applications and innovative strategies being employed in this exciting field.

Each company appears to have a different focus. Redwire is developing 3D printers for use on ISS, Relativity developing 3D printers for building rocket components, and AI Spacefactory developing 3D printed space colonies for Mars or the Moon.

If I had to choose which company to bet on, my pick would be Relativity followed by Redwire. The former’s large 3D printing technology for rockets can be very easily shifted to other uses and products, giving it a product of great value far beyond space. Redwire meanwhile has already launched and operated printers on ISS, proving it can provide that technology to future space stations.

This industry is however in its infancy. As the private space stations presently under construction launch, their need for this technology will skyrocket, and thus there will be opportunities galore.