Jun.20, 2013

The first 3D printer bound for space passed a series of critical microgravity tests at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, announces the 3D printer's builder.

Made in Space, the space manufacturing company, tested the 3D printer during four microgravity flights lasting two hours each, simulating conditions found on the ISS.

They were secured on a specially designed airplane that flies parabolas, meaning it climbs and then briefly simulates, roller-coaster style, microgravity during the plunge before climbing again. The goal is to examine printing and hardware effects over the course of the two-hour flights.

"The unique challenges posed by off-Earth 3D printing require technology and hardware specifically adapted for space. In these microgravity tests, Made in Space assessed layer adhesion, resolution and part strength in the microgravity environment." says the company.

The printer, as part of the 3D Print Experiment in coordination with NASA, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014.

In 2011, Made in Space was chosen to perform both parabolic and suborbital test flights. Over four flights consisting of 32 microgravity parabolas each, three prototype versions were tested in Zero-G Corporation's modified Boeing 727.

The company was then awarded a NASA Phase 1 SBIR Contract to deliver their 3D printer to the ISS.

"The 3D printer we're developing for the ISS is all about enabling astronauts today to be less dependent on Earth," said Noah Paul-Gin, Microgravity Experiment Lead. "The version that will arrive on the ISS next year has the capability of building an estimated 30% of the spare parts on the station, as well as various objects such as specialty tools and experiment upgrades."

The 3D printer prototype will next engage in environmental testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Today, we demonstrated that our 3D printers can print in microgravity. Next year, we will demonstrate that they can print on the International Space Station," said Mike Chen, Strategic Officer.


Posted in 3D Printing Company



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