Sep 8, 2015 | By Tess

Thinking of astronaut food recalls images of toothpaste tube meals and drinking from plastic bags with straws. This may not be the case for long, however, as Scottish whiskey distiller Ballantine's has successfully commissioned a stylish 3D printed whiskey glass made for the microgravity conditions of space.

The space glass was designed by an Open Space Agency (OSA) team headed by James Parr in collaboration with Ballantine's with the express goal of creating a receptacle that would bring a bit of earth's comfort into space. The Space Glass' prototype was tested and further developed in microgravity at Germany's ZARM drop tower.

Ballantine's also developed and distilled a special brand of space whiskey for the project, bringing not only a familiar object to space, but also a comforting taste. As flavours are significantly suppressed in space, Ballantine's master blender Sandy Hyslop created a stronger, more flavourful whiskey that would compensate for the astronauts affected taste buds. As he explains,

"In space, you do not experience the sense of smell and taste with the same intensity as you do on earth. This meant I had to make the Ballantine's Space Whiskey more heightened in flavour and robust whilst maintaining the Ballantine's signature style. Astronauts miss the taste of home so crafting a fruitier, stronger, more floral blend is a way they can keep the taste of home with them."

The glass' design is a more or less classic tumbler shape but is equipped with several components that make it suitable for microgravity environments. The base of the glass, made from 3D printed rose gold, for instance, is a spiralled convex shape that creates surface tension holding down the whiskey liquid, which in space takes on a jellylike consistency. From the base as well, a small tube, called the "single helix" snakes its way up the glass to a rose gold mouthpiece from which the person using it can delicately sip the whiskey as it rises.

To fill the glass, one simply has to place the whiskey bottle – fitted with a bespoke nozzle – into the one-way valve also located at the base of the glass. The whiskey is then pulled up into the Space Glass, ready to be tasted. The scientific principle behind the whiskey's movement into the glass and up the helix is based on the same principle that lets water rise from the roots of a plant to its leaves and flowers: capillary action.

The glass' rose gold accents were also chosen for a number of reasons, both practical and aesthetic. As Ballantine's notes, "the rose gold colour is reminiscent of the copper used in the whiskey distillation process, a nod to our rich history." Not only that, however, the element's highly unreactive properties allow for the whiskey's taste to remain unaffected by the plastic material of the glass, also giving the drinker a pleasant cool touch when sipping the drink.

Significantly, James Parr and his team decided to additively manufacture the Space Glass. 3D printing, heralded as "future-proof," could drastically change the lives of astronauts in space, allowing them to print and manufacture any needed products in space. Currently, there is already a 3D printer on the International Space Station (I.S.S). James Parr wanted the Ballantine's Space Glass to be a part of this 3D printing development and hopes that one-day astronauts will be able to print the glasses for themselves in space.

As Ballantine's notes, though it may be awhile before we can all enjoy our glass of whiskey in space, they will be making the glasses available here on earth, though they are not yet retail ready.

Below are the Ballantine's promotional video for the Space Glass as well as an in depth look at the microgravity testing process:



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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GeneralMusings wrote at 9/8/2015 6:08:12 PM:

Yay... A sippy cup for adults!

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