Aug 2, 2016 | By Alec

Russia has clearly become fully committed to bringing 3D printing to their aerospace industry. Just over the last few months, 3D printing has already made a huge impact on various space-bound research projects in Russia. Among others, the Russian-made 3D printed microsatellite Tomsk-TPU-120 was launched into space in late March, while a Russian carbon 3D printer that can build satellites aboard the ISS is under development. To add fuel to that fire, Russia’s United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) has just signed an agreement with 3D Bioprinting Solutions for the development of a magnetic zero-gravity 3D bioprinter – which is scheduled to be taken into operation aboard the ISS by 2018.

This is great news for all fans of space exploration, for zero-gravity 3D printing could play a huge role in that process. In a nutshell, it could be a solution for one of the most significant obstacles faced by the Mission to Mars: the immense costs involved. Sending necessary supplies into space is extremely expensive, but those costs could be significantly reduced if you only have to send up a few basic materials that are used for on-demand 3D printing. It will, scientists agree, facilitate deeper space exploration through efficiency and flexibility. That is exactly why European, Chinese and American space programs have been working on zero-gravity 3D printing. Right now, Made in Space’s second generation zero-gravity 3D printer is already in operation in the ISS.

While the Russians have not yet replicated these zero-gravity 3D printing successes, the URSC is already looking even further with this new 3D bioprinter agreement. The URSC is actually part of the Roscosmos state corporation, and was founded in 2013 to reinvigorate and renationalize the domestic aerospace industry. 3D Bioprinting Solutions, meanwhile, is a Russian startup based in the Skolkovo Innovation Center – the HQ of Russia’s biggest innovators. This startup already revealed their first 3D bioprinter back in 2014.

Together, they will be working on an ambitious project: to develop a magnetic 3D bioprinter that will enable tissue and organ construction in space. While the Mars-bound astronauts could doubtlessly benefit from such medical innovations, the URSC is initially focusing on a completely different application: to monitor the effects of cosmic radiation on human tissue during prolonged stays in space, with the intention of developing preventive countermeasures.

This important tool will be developed by a team headed by Vladimir Mironov, the scientific director of 3D Bioprinting Solutions, and is scheduled to be launched into space by 2018. Various other Russian corporations will also be involved in the 3D printer’s development and testing. When announcing the new partnership, the URSC’s Director General Yuri Vlasov called the endeavor ‘one more step’ towards human exploration of other planets. “The ability to create organs during manned missions in deep space will support a new era of the space exploration,” the Director General said.

But this new project could also affect medical procedures here on Earth, 3D Bioprinting Solutions’ Youssef Hesuani argued. It’s a unique opportunity, he said, to pursue new approaches and techniques in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. What’s more, 3D Bioprinting Solutions believes that their technology could speed up the development of artificial human tissue and organs. If successful, this Russian project could thus have a huge impact here on Earth and beyond it.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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