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Posted: Jun 18, 2014
3D printer about to launch to the International Space Station (w/video)
(Nanowerk News) In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machinery. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and Make almost anything, and the applications to space exploration will help our astronauts to be less reliant on materials from Earth as they explore farther out into the solar system.
The 3D printer that will be launched to the space station in fall 2014 is tested at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. (Image: NASA)
NASA’s 3D Printing in Zero-G ISS Technology Demonstration will demonstrate the capability of utilizing a Made In Space 3D printer for in-space additive manufacturing technology. This is the first step toward realizing an additive manufacturing, print-on-demand “machine shop” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets, where there is extremely limited ability and availability of Earth-based logistics support.
If an astronaut tool breaks, future space pioneers won’t be able to go to the local hardware store to purchase a replacement, but with 3D printing they will be able to create their own replacement or create tools we’ve never seen before. For NASA as well as the Maker community, 3D printing provides end-to-end product development.
NASA, in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation, has issued "Future Engineers" printing challenges for the first 3D printer aboard the International Space Station. Middle and high school students will design items for 3D printing on ISS, and the winning student will watch from NASA’s Payload Operations Center with the mission control team as the item is printed in space. NASA and the ASME Foundation will also promote these projects and others in Maker Community Challenge Showcases, in which student participants would have the opportunity to have their 3D designs printed at local Maker community locations and student participants would showcase their 3D designs in on online open hardware design repository.