NASA sent a 3D printer into space. The experiment demonstrates that a 3D printer can work in space without a problem.
3D printing offers a fast way to make parts even in space, it is a huge benefit to long-term missions with restrictions on weight.
‘’The goal of 3-D printing is to take this capability to microgravity for use on the International Space Station. In space, whatever astronauts have available on orbit is what they have to use — but just like on Earth, parts break or get lost. When that happens, there’s a wait for replacement parts, or the need to have multiple spares that have to be launched. The ability to conduct 3-D printing in space could change all of that. ‘’ – NASA astronaut Timothy “T.J.” Creamer
The experiment compares 3D printed objects made on Earth with those made in microgravity. Insight into how 3D printing works in microgravity could improve 3D printing methods for industry. The experiment includes student activities, in particular a project allowing students to design items to be 3D printed on the space station by crew members.
This project provides:
- The first demonstration of additive manufacturing in space
- A detailed analysis of how acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) thermoplastic resin behaves in microgravity
- A comparison between additive manufacturing in Earth’s gravity and in consistent, long-term exposure to microgravity (insufficient in parabolic flights due to “print-pause” style of printing)
- Advance the TRL of additive manufacturing processes to provide risk reduction, and capabilities, to future flight or mission development programs
- The gateway to fabricating parts on-demand in space, thus reducing the need for spare parts on the mission manifest
- A technology with the promise to provide a significant return on investment, by enabling future NASA missions that would not be feasible without the capability to manufacture parts in situ
In addition you can watch the NASA’s Marshall Center video on YouTube