NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia has a device - the Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication (EBF3). It is built with an electron beam from a 3D drawing and can make all kinds of metal parts in all shapes.
How it works
Karen Taminger was the main developer for the process, she is Material Research Engineer for NASA. Wires from different metals can be fed to the machine. The electron beam melts the wire and deposits the molten metal on a spinning disk, so that a part is created layer by layer. The technique is designed to quickly and cost-saving produce metal parts, without the using molds or milling technology. It has less wastage of raw materials and is environment friendly.
Besides that, according to NASA, it build objects quickly, especially compared to existing 3D printing technologies. Aluminum and titanium workpieces can be built by 2200cm3 per hour.
Testing in space station
NASA has tested EBF3 in a reduced gravity aircraft and shows EBF3 function perfectly in such environment. Meanwhile, NASA want to reduced the machine to a compact, portable unit. In next step NASA wants to further reduce the size, so that eventually the astronauts on the ISS space station can print parts and tools themselves whenever they need.
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