Jan 15, 2016 | By Kira

The European Space Agency has commissioned four European tech companies to develop an Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) breadboard machine that will be capable of 3D printing electric circuit boards within the International Space Station.

The four tech companies involved in Project MELT (Manufacturing of Experimental Layer Technology) are Active Space GMBH and OHB Systems AG, two German-based space companies, and Active Space SA and 3D printing company BEEVERYCREATIVE, both hailing from Portugal.

Together, they will design and build an ALM, or 3D printing, breadboard machine (a breadboard machine is simply a board used to create an experimental model of an electric circuit) that can function under the specific and strenuous microgravity conditions inside orbiting ISS. The board must also be able to 3D print engineering polymers with high-end mechanical and thermal properties directly onto the surface of the circuit boards.

BEEVERYCREATIVE has been enlisted specifically for their 3D printing expertise, and has been charged with designing the ALM model and its operating software. Though we have previously covered BEEVERYCREATIVE’s more creative collaborations in 3D printing fashion or art, including this 5-meter-tall 3D printed statue in Lisbon, or more recently, the Mama Africa 3D printed fashion collection, the desktop 3D printer manufacturer is clearly out to prove it have a lot to offer for high-demand 3D printing applications as well, and can hold its own amongst the three other space companies involved.

“We are really excited to contribute to a new technological era, and together… make the future come true,” said Sergio Moreira, head of marketing at BEEVERYCREATIVE.

The project was launched at the end of 2014 and, after winning a public tender by the ESA, all four companies have been hard at work on it since June 2014. The expect to deliver the final ALM breadboard machine in May 2017 after completing several planned phases, including studying current technologies, developing the hardware and software, testing the breadboard, and evaluating the 3D printing components.

The ESA has shown quit a bit of interest lately in 3D printing both here on Earth and in Space. It is leading a €500K project to develop a new cold spray 3D printing technique, enabling metal to be 3D printed at room temperature; and has even announced the ambitious and audacious plan to potentially beat NASA to Mars by instead 3D printing a village on the moon.

At the same time, advancements in PCB 3D printers have proven that it is possible to 3D print functional circuit boards and electronics, opening up entirely new possibilities in 3D printing applications for consumer electronics, military applications, and now, even outer space.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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