Jan 8, 2016 | By Andre

Space and 3D Printing are connected both in the world of today but also, without question, in how we'll operate as human space exploration continues into the future. The reason for 3D printing in space makes a compelling case in its simplest form alone. This being, that if a part on board the International Space Station breaks and there’s no backup in sight, 3D printing a replacement instead of waiting for the next resupply mission makes a lot of sense.

By late 2015, the International Space Station had already received its first 3D Printer; while back on earth, functional 3D printed rocket parts were making world news. But the case for 3D printing as a means of production well into our future is also something to consider. Planetary Resources Inc., is well into that consideration phase.

They are an astroid mining company that is set to “expand the economy of our planet into space through accessing the resources of space.”  They’re end-goal, as CEO Chris Lewicki puts it, is to be able to one day mine space’s infinite resources “in the same way that we have shipping and commerce going on between all the different countries and continents here on earth; our vision is to have space be just another one of those places.”

In the mean time however, they, with the help of 3D Systems, showcased the first ever 3D printed object from astroid metal as a sort of proof-of-concept of what might be common in space mining in the future.

The raw material used for the 3D print was taken from an asteroid sourced from the Campo Del Cielo impact crater in Argentina and is made up of iron, nickel, and cobalt. From there, parts of the asteroid were pulverized and powdered before being run through the newly announced ProX DMP 320 Printer into the design you can see right in front of you.

Just looking at photos of the of this print really makes me wonder about the ridiculous combination of intergalactic chance combined with human resourcefulness and creativity that was necessary to produce the beautiful object.

And while Planetary Resources Inc. is still early in their mission, they are optimistic and committed to their cause. "People think about asteroid mining and think it's in the far, far future, but this is stuff that we're doing right now," Lewicki has said. "We launched a satellite in space last year, have two more on the way this year.

When it comes to long term of space exploration, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll be harvesting interplanetary resources for our own purposes. Going back to earth isn’t always overly practical. Regarding the 3D print on display at this year's CES, he suggests that “this is the future of construction in space.” It seems even U.S. President Obama is on board after he recently signed a bill recognizing astroid resource property rights into law.

To close off, I definitely recommend checking out the below interview with CEO Chris Lewicki (2h27m in). And if you’re interested in getting involved with space mining, they’re hiring!

(segment begins 2h27m in)



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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