Apr 4, 2017 | By Julia
Made In Space has just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) aboard the International Space Station (ISS). On March 23rd, 2016, Made In Space officially launched the AMF, a zero-gravity, second-generation 3D printer, on the ISS. Now, the high-profile 3D printing innovators are looking back at their achievements over the past year, as well as the future of additive manufacturing in space.
Since last March, 39 AMF prints have been made for clients including medical parts, specialized NASA parts, commercial items, and Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) projects for students.
"I'd describe our prints last year as trailblazers, since they were all made in orbit for the first time and we were exploring how best to utilize AMF," said Matt Napoli, Made In Space vice president of In-Space Operations.
Several important firsts were indeed trail-blazed by AMF in the last year. NASA sponsored the first STEM 3D print for the Future Engineers program, in addition to contracting an adaptor part for an Oxygen Generating System (OGS) used aboard the ISS during monthly oxygen level testing. On the corporate side of things, AMF printed a microgravity wrench for Lowe’s, its first commercial print. The first print for the U.S. Navy was a hydroclip part used on radio wiring, and the first medical print was a finger splint for a medical researcher.
NASA's OGS part printed by AMF
Now, Made In Space is promptly moving forward with that momentum. "This year, we expect more advanced prints as we push the envelope of what's possible with it,” Napoli said.
Among those exciting developments is a brand new printing material. Made In Space’s new PEI/PC (polyetherimide/polycarbonate) space-suitable material is expected to enhance the company’s ability to manufacture stronger, more heat-resistant structures.
The move is strategic on Made In Space’s part, as it expands its roster of printing materials. When the company first introduced a 3D printer aboard the ISS in 2014, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) was the go-to printing material. Last summer, after the launch of the AMF, Made In Space began printing in Green PE (polyethylene), a material supplied by Braskem.
In the coming years, Made In Space has stated it plans to print in many different materials, as the company perfects the manufacturing techniques required for building large, complex objects in space. Details are still to come, but further planned materials will include metals, composites, and carbon nanotube-doped materials.
Made In Space President and CEO Andrew Rush confirms the AMF is in use every single week aboard the ISS. “Many people are still surprised when they learn our country is already making things in space,” he said.
“Our NASA customer has been great over the past few years, embracing this technology and supporting us its development. As we continue printing in stronger materials like PEI/PC, we'll start to see even more breakthrough achievements."
With an established, high-profile client base, new materials coming, and other promising developments in the works, it certainly looks like next year will be an exciting one for Made In Space.
Posted in 3D Printing Events
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Colin L. Cini wrote at 4/5/2017 1:28:36 PM:
See: 35 U.S.C. 105 Inventions in outer space.