Nov 8, 2016 | By Tess

Over the summer, Mouser Electronics and engineer Grant Imahara (whom you may recognize from Mythbusters) launched a challenge for designing 3D printed tools which could be printed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Sponsored by Intel, Made in Space, and others, the 3D printing challenge invited makers from all walks of life to create original and innovative tools which could be used by astronauts in space. Now, a month after the contest’s deadline, the winners of the 3D printing space challenge have been announced.

In the end, nearly 250 3D printable ideas were submitted to the contest, covering a wide range of uses, from simple toys, to everyday utensils, to more complex scientific instruments. Each entry was judged by an illustrious and qualified panel which included Imahara and astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Demonstration of 3D printed launcher mechanism

The winning design was an impressive 3D printed satellite launcher designed by Andy Filo. Of course, the satellites we are talking about are not large-scale ones, but tiny “femtosats," which are essentially microchips that are launched into space to gather useful information on such things as changes in the magnetosphere, or to find cosmic rays. As Filo explained of his idea, “It’s all about getting these little 'femto satellites,' about the size of a cracker, into space. The problem is, how do you get them out there?”

His solution is an ingenious one, as he designed a small 3D printed device that basically functions as a “mothership” for the tiny satellites, capable of launching them into space using a simple mechanism. The device, which is made up of a compact box with specially designed compartments, houses each of the satellites in a slot. The satellites’ antennae are then loaded into the device to function as springs, which are released by the removal of a pin, initially inserted to keep everything in place and under pressure. When the pin is removed, the femtosats are released and projected into space to do their work.

Grant Imahara talks with Andy Filo

According to Filo, who has filed a patent request for his innovative mechanism, the 3D printed launcher could even control where and how the satellites are deployed. As Grant Imahara points out, “One of the most important issues [regarding] the femtosatellites is that they need to be deployed in a specific pattern. This box, it’s incredible, it looks very simple and can be entirely 3D printed, it makes it easy to assemble all the satellites in it—that makes it all possible.”

Having designed the winning entry, Filo will soon see his innovative design made in space on the ISS, using its onboard Additive Manufacturing Facility 3D printer. Of course, he won’t be there to see it, but even knowing that his work will be helping astronauts in space has made Filo a very happy man.

3D printed vice, runner-up design

Two other 3D printable designs were recognized as runners-up for the ISS 3D printing challenge: a simple 3D printed vice to be used to keep things in place in a zero-gravity environment, and a pair of 3D printed, multi-use “space tongs” which could be used by astronauts to alternately spoon and grab space food. The tongs were Imahara’s personal favorite design. As he explained, “They show an intimate understanding of the difficulties of eating in space—on Earth we don’t think about how hard it is. That was a really clever solution to the problem.”

Ultimately though, it was Filo’s innovative and impressively creative 3D printed satellite launcher which took home top prize for the contest and which will even be 3D printed aboard the ISS. This particular 3D printing challenge, organized by Mouser Electronics, is just one of many which have proven how innovative ideas can come from anyone with a creative mind and a 3D printer. As astronaut Chris Hadfield points out, “Challenge people to come up with stuff, recognize that the technology is new, but use that as the new benchmark and go from there. You raise the bar high enough and people will do their best to get over it.”

3D printed tongs, runner-up design

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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info at astarchipenterprises dot com wrote at 11/9/2016 9:11:37 PM:

Very Cool!



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