Dec.8, 2011


Made in Space, Inc. has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop in-space 3D manufacturing capability for the International Space Station. They will receive up to $125,000 in NASA funding sometime next year. 3D printing technology could enable astronauts build any number of objects based on the designs uploaded from control center. 


“The 3D printing system will allow for immediate repair of essential components, upgrades of existing hardware, installation of new hardware that is manufactured, and the manufacturing capability to support commercial interests. Additive manufacturing is the process of building a part layer-by-layer, with an efficient use of the material. The process leads to a reduction in cost, mass, labor and production time,” according to Made in Space’s proposal.


Made in Space is a Silicon Valley start-up based at the NASA Ames Research Park in Moffett Field, California. They come out of Singularity University, and it was a student project during the 2010 Singularity University summer session.


(Made in Space tests a 3D printer in microgravity. (photo credit: Made in Space))

They are now working in Houston, TX at NASA Johnson Space Center. They need first to create a 3D printer for the seemingly weightless space environment. They have made several microgravity testing with commercial 3D printers. However in the end they decided to go for their own custom printer design, and that will be an extrusion printer building objects out of plastic polymers. It is estimated the printer would make spare parts for the space station for up to 1 billion dollars.

"We think that one-third of those parts could be built using the machine we're building right now," Dunn explained. "We're starting with polymers because they're extrusion-based, and in some cases we're starting to produce our own space-qualified polymers."said Jason Dunn, chief technology officer and co-founder of Made in Space, Inc.

If all goes well with upcoming parabolic and suborbital flight tests, Made in Space's first 3D printer will be on the space station by 2014.

More information about the proposal summary from Made in Space - ISS Additive Manufacturing Facility for On-Demand Fabrication in Space - can be found at NASA's site. 

Via space.com & Made in Space


Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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