May 12, 2014

Yesterday we reported that NASA has selected Made in Space to develop ABS recycling system in orbit. To provide future a self-sustaining, closed-loop on-orbit manufacturing process, it is announced that NASA has also selected Tethers Unlimited for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 award to produce a system that would recycle left over plastic from NASA's on-orbit 3d printers for reuse.

Over the past few years, NASA has been working with Tethers Unlimited (TUI), a Bothell, Wash. based space technology development company to develop SpiderFab technology that enable spacecraft to use 3D printing and robotic assembly techniques to fabricate and integrate large components on-orbit.

The space agency just awarded Tethers Unlimited an additional $125,000 for a six month period to develop 'Positrusion Filament Recycling System'. "This effort will minimize the requirements for resupplying and/or storing excess feedstock for orbital and deep space missions that utilize 3D printing for replacement parts, unforeseen needs, and planned sequential repurposing of components for progressive phases of a given mission." notes NASA.

Image credit: Richrap

TUI proposes a novel process to produce 3d printer feedstock filament out of scrap ABS on the ISS. TUI announces it will "develop a filament extruding machine that uses a process called Positrusion that is designed from the ground up for optimally producing small batches of positively controlled round filament directly out of arbitrarily shaped scraps of ABS plastic, while meeting requirements for operation on the ISS."

While existing extrusion machines rely on separate facilities for fully drying the material beforehand, TUI's system will dry and degas the input material before melting and extruding it through a die, and the cross-sectional dimensions, says TUI. It will also control the feed-rate of the cooling extrudate "in a continuous analog of closed-die molding."

Tethers Unlimited will use the money to develop this process, which can also be used for private consumers and professional users to recycle scraps from many commercial 3d printers.

"The Positrusion process would not be suited for high through-put industrial purposes, but it will be marketable to a large portion of the growing population of household and workplace 3d printer users to enable individuals to efficiently practice a self-sustaining 3D printer material cycle." notes TUI.

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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Spaceman wrote at 5/12/2014 10:42:19 PM:

Super awesome!!

Martin wrote at 5/12/2014 6:26:35 PM:

I am surprised ABS is considered for the ISS, for it releases a lot of smell. ISS materials need to comply with very little to none odor release. I am missing something?

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