Oct 12, 2016 | By Benedict

The Kepler Space Institute and Enterprise In Space (EIS) have partnered with Made In Space (MIS), Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology to launch the “Print the Future” competition. Winners will have their 3D printed NewSpace experiment printed on the International Space Station (ISS).

Ever since the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a heavy-duty 3D printer, was installed on the ISS, astronauts have been able to 3D print items in space. However, Made In Space, the company behind the AMF, has been doing much more than just providing a machine for ISS astronauts; it has also been running the AMF as a remote print shop for customers back on Earth, allowing customers to have their own tools and gadgets 3D printed in space and (eventually) brought back home. Although printing on the AMF normally comes at a high price, creative students will now have a chance to have their own space experiments printed on the orbiting 3D printer. That opportunity comes thanks to Print the Future, a 3D printing competition launched this week by a group of space-focused organizations.

Print the Future, a collaboration between the Kepler Space Institute, EIS, Made In Space, Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology, encourages university teams to craft new designs for concepts that can aid the human species in interplanetary transport, construction, and habitation. Designs need only be within the build limitations on the AMF, and all entries will be submitted and displayed on 3D modeling platform Sketchfab. Finalists will have their projects prototyped free of charge through 3D Hubs, but all contestants are encouraged to iterate designs through 3D Hubs as well.

“An essential technology to extending humanity’s reach in space is in-space manufacturing,” said National Space Society (NSS) Director and Made In Space Co-Founder and Chief Engineer Michael Snyder. “By manufacturing new designs in space, we'll be able to forgo the high cost of shipping supplies by rocket and instead fabricate them directly in microgravity.”

The overall winner of the Print the Future competition will work with MIS to have their design 3D printed on Earth. Once the Earth version has been tested and validated, a final version will be 3D printed in space aboard the ISS. The project will then be returned to Earth, where the winner will be able to use Prairie Nanotechnology's advanced research equipment to study the results of the experiment.

Three members of the winning team will receive R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships, valued at $5,000 each, at the Kepler Space Institute, which can be applied towards a full certificate program. The R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships aim to encourage talented students to develop “technologies, laws, philosophies, and a moral and societal framework to aid the global community in extending life through our solar system and beyond.”

“We've all seen those exciting sci-fi films in which the human species has colonized the galaxy and is exploring space in order to answer life’s deepest questions,” said NSS President and EIS Program Manager Alice Hoffman. “But if we're ever going to be able to pull that off, we still have to develop the NewSpace technologies that will make interplanetary travel and colonization possible. And we'll need to train the next generation to drive those technologies even further.”

Teams can submit their entries to the competition until February 15, 2017. Ten semi-finalists will be announced on March 15, who will be asked to submit a paper before April 1. The top three finalists will then be announced on April 15. Full prizes are as follows:

All qualified participants will receive:

  • Sketchfab one year Professional account (worth $120)
  • Their name flown aboard the NSS Enterprise spacecraft (later displayed in museum)
  • Virtual crew member certificate
  • Access to exclusive EIS content

Semi-finalists will receive all of the above plus:

  • Project proposals published
  • Tour of MIS facilities in California
  • Tour of NASA Johnson Space Center in Texas
  • Associate NSS membership
  • 3D printed prototype of project via 3D Hubs

Three finalists will receive all of the above plus:

  • Entry to NSS International Space Development conference to present papers and receive awards
  • Sketchfab hoodies, t-shirts, VR cardboards
  • 3D printed prototype of project using engineering-grade material

Grand prize winner will receive all of the above plus:

  • Item 3D printed aboard ISS
  • Up to three test prints on Earth at MIS facilities
  • Scientific evaluation at Prairie Nanotechnology
  • Results paper published in Ad Astra Magazine and 3D printing trade journal
  • Kepler Space Institute scholarships

 

 

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