3D printing has revolutionized today’s world. We are witnessing a paradigm shift in how companies and industries work, all thanks to the advances that have been made in 3D technology. Why are we talking about 3D printing right now? That’s because a company is ready to take 3D printing into space; Made In Space has come up with a Zero-G 3D printer that is set to launch to the International Space Station tomorrow.
The company was founded back in 2010 and has been working in order to get the Zero-G 3D printer certified. The company claims that their gadget is the first 3D printer capable of operating in zero gravity. According to the firm, the gadget has undergone 30,000 hours of testing that includes more than 400 microgravity parabola flights aboard a modified Boeing 727.
This printer works by making use of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic in hot and liquefied form. It builds up layer of ABS plastic and then uses them to create an object. In order for a 3D printer to work in space, a number of key issues had to be addressed, firm says. Originally the components that made use of gravity to remain in place had to be redesigned to cater to the zero gravity environment while the thermal processes also required that calculations be performed again. The layering process had to be changed as well and apart from all these factors the printer had to be crafted with ‘extreme safety precautions’ in mind.
NASA estimates that about 30% of parts on the ISS can be 3D printed. Made In Space speculates that instead of creating and sending items from Earth, now the items can be manufactured in space and this opens up new horizons for development and acceleration in development in space. The parts being created in space could be lighter since they won’t no longer have to bear the Earth’s gravity before they are launched and the high-end g-forces that are experienced during the launch. For astronauts, having the facility to create a spare part in space can make the difference between life and death.
CEO of Made In Space, Aaron Kemmer says; ‘Everything that has ever been built for space has been built on the ground. Tremendous amounts of money and time have been spent to place even the simplest of items in space to aid exploration and development. This new capability will fundamentally change how the supply and development of space missions is looked at.’
This printer will be used by NASA in order to create parts and tools for the ISS in order to study the long-term effects of microgravity on 3D while also ascertaining the role that 3D printing can play when it comes to space exploration. The printer will be launched on a rocket from Cape Canaveal at 2:14 am local time on this Sunday. A second Made In Space 3D printer is scheduled for installation on ISS from 2015.