Jul 17, 2017 | By Tess

The International Space Station (ISS) is now the home of an adorable 3D printed robot designed for taking photographs. Called the JEM Internal Ball Camera (or Int-Ball), the partially 3D printed robot was developed and sent to the ISS by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Excitingly, JAXA has just released the camera-bot’s first images and videos from the ISS.

The cute robot, which integrates both internal and external 3D printed components, is designed to operate in a zero-gravity environment, and it is reportedly able to move “anywhere at anytime via autonomous flight.”

The robot enables scientists and flight controllers on the ground to capture both images and videos remotely, providing them with the ability to “check the crew’s work from the same viewpoint as the crew.”

As JAXA stated in a release about Int-Ball: “The effective cooperative work between in space and on the ground will contribute to maximized results of ‘Kibo’ utilization experiments.” Kibo is the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the ISS that the 3D printed camera robot was delivered to on June 4, 2017.

Perhaps the most important advantage of using the hands-free Int-Ball aboard the ISS is that it gives the astronauts on board the space station more free time to work on other projects or tasks. Currently, photographing processes take up roughly 10% of the onboard crew’s working hours. With the Int-Ball in operation, however, this time could be cut to almost zero percent.

In the footage released by JAXA, viewers can see images of the interior of the ISS captured by the Int-Ball 3D printed bot. And while the whole idea might seem novel to those of us who don’t understand the intricacies of a space station’s operation, this footage can provide crucial feedback to both the controllers on the ground and even the astronauts in space.

The Int-Ball, which integrates elements from drone technology such as miniaturized attitude control sensors and actuators, is currently undergoing its initial verification process aboard the ISS.

JAXA says it is “striving to further improve Int-Ball's performance, enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments, while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions.” We can’t wait to see what other images and footage the 3D printed Int-Ball captures from space.

In other 3D printing news from the ISS, the crew has been using a strong and heat resistant PEI/PC material on its onboard Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) 3D printer.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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