Aug 28, 2015 | By Simon

It was only just over a year ago when Made in Space successfully launched their Zero-G 3D printer up to the International Space Station.  Since then, 3D printing and space exploration have gone hand-in-hand better than most people could have predicted.  

Among other reasons, the Made in Space team was able to email a part file to the International Space Station to be 3D printed, thus proving that manufacturing can be achieved within space.  Additionally, recent developments by various rocketry companies - including Elon Musk’s SpaceX - have proven that additive manufacturing is ideal for creating various rocket parts - including engine components -  for even getting into orbit.  

Thanks to the ease of access that 3D printing and the surrounding community provides, we’re also starting to see an increase of ‘garage scientists’ who are also capable of developing their own revolutionary concepts that could aide in the near-future of space exploration.  

Among others is a new(ish) type of thruster invented by Roger Shawyer called the EMdrive.  Unlike other propulsion systems that rely on repelling mass to produce thrust, the EMdrive can convert electrical energy into thrust directly - or so has been speculated.

According to some, a working EMdrive could theoretically start a revolution in spaceflight and enable manned deep space exploration in ways that we’ve never seen before.  To date, several iterations of the thruster have been built around the world by everybody from NASA to Chinese University and many have proven time and time again their effectiveness.   

Unsurprisingly, the tremendous amount of promise in the EmDrive technology has generated a lot of amateur scientific interest; while the microwave cavity needs to be made and tuned very precisely, the actual building of an EmDrive doesn’t require very many resources.

But because most EMdrives work with frequencies around 2.4 GHz, they are difficult to test under typical DIY conditions, unless you are able to reduce the form factor significantly.

Perhaps it comes with little surprise then, that space enthusiast and hardware developer Paul Kocyla turned to his 3D printer to further study the mysterious thruster technology.  

In order to create his own model, Kocyla turned to Shapeways to have 3D print a cavity in silver - which he explains is a very suitable material for waveguides due to the natural conductive properties.  

In total, the components used by Kocyla to create his “Baby-EMdrive“ include:   

  • 1× 3D printed cavity (polished silver) from Shapeways
  • 1× 3D printed mounts (plastic) from Shapeways
  • 1× RF source
  • 24 GHz RF source
  • 1× Linear servo
  • 1× Load Cell
  • A milligram scale that can be modified

Using “a tuneable 500mW RF source and a mechanically movable endplate to fine tune into resonance,”  Kocyla is also working on an “electrical detection of resonance condition,” with the final goal of producing an embedded flight version inside of a pocketqub satellite if their 3D printed model works within their lab.  

“It has been an exciting ride for us until now,” he adds, “and we hope to provide a functional Baby-EMdrive soon.”

To follow along with his progress, head over to his project page over at Hackaday.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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TS wrote at 11/27/2016 7:42:04 AM:

These experiments always serve largely to redirect/misdirect the efforts of many. Some of whom might otherwise stumble onto the real technologies. Good Journeys

joshg wrote at 2/25/2016 9:56:30 AM:

awesome, thanks

BobHater wrote at 12/31/2015 10:02:44 AM:

Attn: Bob. That is not true, the 'detection' levels were 50 times higher than the so called 'error bars' you mention. This would be the 'noise' level, or sensitivity of the equipment, and it clearly detects -something- which is why the debate rages on. "Something has to be expelled" Why not "something has to be consumed." Mass is energy, repelling mass pushes you forward, consuming energy in a similar way is precisely what the EMDrive does. I have no idea why so many hardcore physicists are on the fence about this. It's a simple conversion of stored energy to thrust. Yes, we don't know why it works, or how, if we did, we'd probably be on Mars already with some shovels in spacesuits digging up our origins. (just a joke.) But, seriously, don't discredit it that hard if you don't know why it's working. ALL these other scientists investigating it are simply telling you they're reading something. Blatant dismissal of a clear finding is like getting hit by a car because you saw the headlights but decided to walk across the road anyway. And just like our hypothetical traveller here, the rest of you will be dead in your Careers when this (expletive) turns out to work, and we actually understand the why and mechanism of it. Unfortunately most of you are your own boss or teach other people your misguided knowledge.

Dylan Sullivan wrote at 10/21/2015 4:00:20 AM:

UndeadJack Please check your facts before posting because its quite clear you have no idea what your talking about.

joel wrote at 10/5/2015 2:32:26 AM:


UndeadJack wrote at 9/19/2015 1:09:01 PM:

I like the Idea of it, In basic perspective, the EMDrive is like a barrel full of water. once the water is in motion, It moves the barrel internally. I fail to see how it will work in space however, as it should require a component necessary to for a continuous reaction, because without an outside force to influence it, it won't move (no thrust for propulsion). so what must be done for continuous acceleration and movement, the EMDrive must have thrusters to assist it, or additional propulsion systems(provided it's propelling an object forward through space/air) in order to create the necessary effects of propulsion. Yours Truly, Undead Jack.

Bob Loblaw wrote at 9/8/2015 8:20:01 PM:

The article does say he AIMS to create one that works Bob, not that he has.

Bob wrote at 8/29/2015 10:05:04 AM:

He 3d printed a shape. That's it. No one has shown the real EM drive to have produced any significant thrust, in fact the thrust it supposedly has made is within the error bars of the test equipment.

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