Apr. 17, 2015 | By Simon

It was only yesterday when we heard that Made In Space would be offering their “space grade”, NASA-approved ABS filament to the general public to use for creating their own space-ready product designs.  Now, NASA has announced that their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program has awarded Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) a contract to further develop their "Positrusion™" recycling system for converting plastic waste into high-quality 3D printer filament for use in making tools, replacement parts and satellite components aboard the International Space Station.  

The company, which is based in Bothell, Washington, develops transformative technologies for both Space and Defense Missions.  Among other projects that they have previously worked on include advanced space propulsion systems, frequency-agile software defined radios for small satellites and systems for in-space additive manufacturing of spacecraft components.  

"Positrusion is a new approach to making 3D printer feedstock that produces filament with much more consistent diameter and density than traditional extrusion processes," said Jesse Cushing, TUI's Principal Investigator for the project.  "That consistency will improve the quality of tools and other parts produced by 3D printers on the station."

In addition to using the technology in space, the company also sees it being used on Earth to help recycle plastic waste into high-quality filament using their patent-pending process.  

"For a recycler to be useful on the ISS, it has to meet stringent safety requirements, and its design needs to minimize the amount of time an astronaut must spend operating it," said Jeffrey Slostad, TUI's Chief Engineer.  "So we designed the Positrusion recycler to be as safe and simple to operate as a microwave oven, and we believe a consumer version of this machine will be ideal for recycling household and office waste."

The company’s long-term goal with both the technology as well as other projects is to create the capabilities to construct the habitats, spacecraft and other infrastructure necessary for exploring and creating settlements throughout the solar system using raw material launched from Earth as well as resources available in the space environment.

The Positrusion technology is part of a larger ecosystem that the company is working on to help advance the near-future of in-space additive manufacturing systems.  Additional additive manufacturing technologies that the company is working on include 3D printed “Versatile Structural Radiation Shielding” (VSRS), Structural Multi-Layer Insulation (S-MLI), and Trusselator™ and SpiderFab™ technologies for fabricating key satellite components such as antennas and solar arrays.

"We are very excited to continue working with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to enable sustainable in-space manufacturing," added Dr. Rob Hoyt, the company’s CEO and Chief Scientist.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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