Jun 8, 2017 | By Tess

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Pennsylvania has been announced as the winner of Enterprise in Space’s “Print the Future” competition for its innovative 3D printed microfluidic modules that can be made aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Enterprise in Space, the non-profit agency of the National Space Society (NSS), launched the “Print the Future” competition in an effort to advance additive manufacturing in space while at the same time giving university students the chance to innovate and come up with useful ideas for in-space prints.

The winning team, Team ProtoFluidics from the University of Pennsylvania, was announced last weekend in St. Louis, Missouri at the 36th annual NSS International Space Development Conference. The team consists of undergraduate students Adam Zachar, Laura Gao, and Jaimie Carlson.

As part of the competition, Enterprise in Space partnered with the Kepler Space Institute, Made In Space, Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology in order to determine which of the proposed projects offered the most scientific and engineering merit, as well as commercial potential, and originality. Ultimately, Team ProtoFluidics persevered for its innovative 3D printed microfluidic modules.

Jaimie Carlson, Adam Zachar, and Laura Gao

“With our 3D printable microfluidic modules, researchers can easily design custom microfluidic circuits to conduct experiments for disease diagnosis, chemical analysis, protein crystallization, and more, capitalizing on the microgravity on station,” explained Adam Zachar. “This process allows researchers to bypass the cost of fabricating and transporting conventional microfluidics to orbit.”

At present, launching a microfluidic experiment from Earth to the ISS can cost up to $27,000 and take up to 12 months to arrive. With the ability to 3D print microfluidic modules directly on-board, scientists on the ISS could benefit from virtually no waiting time and teams on the ground could see significant economic savings.

As the winner, Team ProtoFluidics will partner with Made In Space (the company responsible for the ISS’ first 3D printer) to first 3D print and test their project here on Earth. Once it has been validated, the talented undergrads will hopefully get to see their project 3D printed aboard the ISS before the end of the year.

Adam Zachar, Laura Gao and Jaimie Carlson from Team Proto Fluidics; Hyung Jin Yoo from Team H2; Hasan Latif from Team Bengal Tigers; Mike Snyder of Made In Space; John Quinn from EXOS Aerospace; Edward Kiker from Kepler Space Institute

From there, the project will reportedly be brought back to Earth, and Team Protofluidics will be able to use Prairie Nanotechnology’s advanced research equipment to further study and test the 3D printed module.

In addition to seeing their project 3D printed in space, one member of the winning team will receive the R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarship, worth $5,000, from the Kepler Space Institute. The scholarship, which can be applied towards a certificate program, “aims to encourage space advocates the world over.”

Another team from the University of Pennsylvania (made up of master’s students) was awarded first place runner up for its 3D printed H2 Capsule project. The project consisted of a 3D printed capsule that could be used by Mars explorers to store objects and media in. The idea was meant as “a means of confronting and accepting death as a possible outcome of their mission,” through the ability to share their stories with future explorers.

Second place runner up was given to Team Bengal Tigers from the North Carolina State University for its 3D printed multi-purpose wrench. Currently, all finalist entries are being displayed on 3D model sharing platform Sketchfab.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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