December 15, 2014
The potential for 3D printing reached entirely heights this week, when a 3D printer was activated on the International Space Station. Developed by Made in Space, a startup firm based out of Silicon Valley, the highly-innovative zero-gravity printer was carried into space by the SpaceX Falcone 9 Rocket. After its two-day journey outside earth's orbit, it was then transported to the ISS via a supply ship.
According to the company who developed this one-of-a-kind 3D printing system, a primary goal was to test and evaluate the process of creating 3D printed parts and materials in a zero-gravity environment.
The Role of the First 3D Printer in Space
Initially, astronauts will focus their attention on creating approximately 20 parts for demonstration and evaluation purposes. Their findings will ultimately allow NASA and other private space exploration companies to reduce the amount of cargo (and therefore weight) carried to space on future missions. The ABS plastic composite materials used to create 3D printed parts are lightweight, making them much easier and more efficient to transport in comparison to the part themselves.
One of the most impressive advantages, is the ability to create replacements for parts that are damaged or malfunctioning aboard the space station. Under the current model, replacing a broken or malfunctioning part requires a delivery from back home. Once the team has mastered all the elements of 3D printing in a zero gravity environment, they will have the ability to create replacement tools and parts on the spot.
How Can Your Business Benefit from 3D Printing?
Space travel is just one of many exciting new fields where 3D printers are changing how we live and work. If you're interested in learning more about incorporating 3D print technology into your manufacturing or product design process, Finnovation Product Development can help you in better understanding how the process works.