Jan 8, 2017 | By Tess
It looks like whiskey won’t be the only thing astronauts can sip on in style in space. Oregon-based spacecraft fluid system firm IRPI has developed a 3D printed coffee cup, specially designed to be used in zero-gravity environments. For those of us who only dream of being astronauts, the firm has released the 3D printed space mug to the public through a side project called Spaceware.
The vessel, which resembles a sort of mix between a gravy boat and a nose, has been carefully designed so that astronauts, or those floating about in zero-gravity environments, can sip coffee or other liquids without having to squeeze them out of a pouch. The project was initiated eight years ago when NASA astronaut Don Pettit contacted IRPI to ask if there wasn’t a way to drink without using pouches and straws in space. Of course, IRPI was up to the task.
With the help of its senior scientist and vice president Mark Weislogel, the firm was able to prototype a cup that took into account geometry, wetting, and surface tension, making drinking in space possible. According to IRPI, the cup’s lipped edge is ideal for wicking liquid up the container’s walls up to the drinker’s mouth, not unlike how fuel tanks get going in zero-gravity. With the basic structure, Weislogel and IRPI then set about 3D printing a set of cups to be tested in orbit through the Capillary Beverage Experiment. This was in 2015.
That same year, the Italian Space Agency decided to send a space-friendly espresso machine to the International Space Station, which was demonstrated by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who used the innovative 3D printed space cup to drink up the machine’s first space brew. Needless to say, this was an exciting breakthrough both for IRPI, and for space enthusiasts in general.
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Now, those same space enthusiasts can drink from their very own space cup, regardless of whether they are in orbit or simply having their morning coffee at home, as Spaceware has released the product commercially. For the official NASA and flight-certified 3D printed “Space Coffee Cup”, you will have to dish out a pretty penny, as it is being sold for $499.95. You can, however, opt to buy the less expensive porcelain version of the Space Cup for $74.95. The latter is available in a range of colors, including blue, red, and glossy or matte black.
The Space Cup is reportedly 3D printed using SLA technology, and is then carefully post-processed and coated for safe-consumption. Of course, this rigorous manufacturing process explains the high cost of the cup. The less expensive porcelain cups were still cast using 3D printed molds.
If you do buy Spaceware’s impressive 3D printed Space Cup, the makers suggest that you don’t use it on a regular basis, specifying, “Think of this as a bit of art, science, and space history all in one.” To add to this, the cup is not dishwasher safe, so be sure to clean it by hand if you do use it.
You can learn more about the 3D printed Space Cups and order them online here.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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