Jun 24, 2016 | By Benedict

In a landmark event, the ‘Tru Clip,’ a 3D printed radio clasp designed by sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, has been printed on the International Space Station’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). Transferring the 3D printable file from from Earth to space took around two minutes.

Earlier this month, it was announced that sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman—Aviation Electronics Technician Ashley Figert, Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Jerrod Jenkins, and Lt. Casey Staidl—had created a 3D printed device designed to fix a common problem with sailors’ handheld radios. The clasps of the radios kept breaking, and the Navy had to pay $615 apiece for the replacement parts needed. The Tru Clip, designed to perform the same function as the replacement part, cost just 6 cents to print, and saved the Truman around $12,000 in a period of just three months.

When news of the Tru Clip went public, it was also announced that the handy 3D printed device would be sent to the International Space Station to be 3D printed on the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the space station’s own 3D printer. Now, to coincide with National Week of Making, that historical print has finally happened, marking the first time that a Department of Defense-built part has been transmitted for printing in space and the first time that a 3D printed part designed by the Navy has been transferred digitally to outside government agencies.

In a special celebratory event, Vice Adm. Phil Cullom (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics) and congressmen Mark Takano and Tim Ryan gave short speeches about the special moment, before jointly pressing a large red button labeled “Make in Space,” which kicked off the transfer of the 3D printable file. The two-minute transfer was depicted graphically on a monitor, so attendees could follow the digital file’s virtual journey to the ISS. Congressman Paul Tonko, Lt. General Michael Dana, Mr. Donald McCormack, and Made in Space CEO Andrew Rush also took part in the event.

On the evening of the file’s arrival on the ISS, the Tru Clip was successfully 3D printed using the AMF, delighting all parties behind the project: “This demonstration illustrates the power of the digital thread, and is the beginning of our future capability to manufacture mission-critical parts at the point of need--whether ashore, afloat, under the sea, or in space,” said Vice Adm. Cullom. “This is one small step for Navy, and one giant leap for all of us.”

The AMF became the second 3D printer to be used aboard the ISS when it replaced a preliminary version in late March this year. The new machine has a build area of 5.5” x 3.9” x 3.9” and resolution of 0.1mm to 0.44mm, and can print in more than 30 polymers. More than simply a tool for astronauts and government agencies, the AMF is currently taking orders from private manufacturers who wish to have their products printed in space.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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