3D Printing Is Out of This World

by Jean Fischer

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in General Interest | No Comments


On Wednesday May 28, 2014 Reid Wiseman, an astronaut from Maryland,
launched into outer space. Wiseman will be on board the International
Space Station for six months. He is scheduled to do two or more
spacewalks, and to perform numerous experiments, including making
parts using the first 3D printer in space.

“If we are going to send humans to Mars, you’ll never know what
will break,” Wiseman told CBS News. “And if we have a 3D printers
where we could just fix whatever is broken, this really opens up a
whole new dimension of long range space travel.”

NASA is experimenting with additive creation of parts such as battery
mounts. What should be interesting, is to see what effects lack of
gravity will have on the consistency and mechanical accuracy of the
parts he attempts to print. Micro-gravity affects heating of the
additive materials used to make the parts. To compensate for the
issues of printing aboard the Space Station, printer maker “Made In Space”
has reported altered mechanical configuration of liquid handling.
The company has tested its prototype on Zero-g flights.

Other concerns were electromagnetic interference (EMI) caused by
the huge amount of radio signals produced inside the ship. Care
was taken in fastening the printer down so that vibrations would
not affect the printing. Commanding the printer programs from the
ground eliminates the need for a lot of interaction by the astronauts,
although the printer case includes a glovebox
for easy access by Wiseman and other members of the crew.

NASA also hopes to develop commercial uses for the knowledge gained,
including pharmaceutical applications. According to some, NASA may
plan on printing food. I am not too sure the world is ready for
printed food, but NASA is definitely taking 3D printing to new heights.