Yes, we are obsessed with 3D printing and for valid reasons. The technology has taken the world by storm and keeps getting better and better. Did you read about how US Army is using 3D printing for making barracks? Today we’ll be talking about another amazing feat of 3D printing – carrying out construction in the vacuum of space. A manufacturing company, Made in Space, has used a unique 3D printer in extreme, similar to space conditions under the project name of Archinaut.
The team from Made In Space was able to 3D print polymer alloy parts in a super-high vacuum. They are hopeful that this new tech of theirs would allow for the designing and manufacturing of spacecraft and space-based telescopes. Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Spae, said, “This is an important milestone, because it means that we can now adaptively and on demand manufacture things in space.”
Made in Space is an American company that was founded back in 2010 as a space-based manufacturing company specializing in 3D printers to be used in space. The company has already showcased its abilities to 3D print parts in a zero gravity environment.
Made in Space 3D printed a range of structures on ISS in 2010. This included tools that astronauts would be able to make on demand thus relieving them from waiting for the next payload. As of now, ISS has two 3D printers, however both of these 3D printers are operated within the station and have never left the safety of station to experience the vacuum.
The team created the space environment on Earth by making use of a thermal vacuum chamber and the test was carried out for 24 days. During this test, the team was able to 3D print polymer allow beams up to 85 cm in length.
This 3D printer is part of a much more ambitious project. Archinaut is combining the 3D printing technology with robotic arms that are utilized for assembling structures that the printer creates.
Steve Jurczyk, Headof NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said, “We do believe that in-space robotic manufacturing and assembly is going to revolutionise the way we design and deploy and operate systems in space.”
The next phase of the project deals with testing out the combination of 3D printers and robotic arms and carry out a demonstration mission in Earth’s orbit. If all goes well, the technology will be deployed in space by the mid 2020s. Check out the video below to learn more.