Nov 3, 2016 | By Benedict

A 3D printed Robai Cyton Gamma 300 robotic arm will be installed on the International Space Station after its carrier, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft, successfully berthed on the ISS last weekend. The Cygnus was also carrying several CubeSats and other equipment.

Robai Cyton Gamma 300

After launching on October 17 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft berthed to the ISS early October 23. Since that date, Expedition 49 crew have unloaded approximately 5,000 pounds of science investigations, food, and supplies from the spacecraft onto the ISS. The science investigations include studies into how fire behaves in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, and more. There was, however, one particular item of the cargo that caught our eye…

Inside a payload in NanoRacks LLC’s Black Box platform is a 3D printed Cyton Gamma 300 robotic arm made by Robai, a robotics specialist from Cambridge, Massachusetts. This robotic arm, which offers humanlike motion with graphical tasking software, features 3D printed structural parts, pinch guards, and cosmetic covers, all made with ABSPlus thermoplastic 3D printing material from Stratasys. The arm has a maximum payload of 300 g, a total reach of 53.4 cm, and a weight of 1.2 kg.

Cygnus attaches to ISS (NASA)

According to Robai, the use of FDM 3D printing has helped the company to reduce costs and labor and shorten production time. “Using traditional methods to make end-of-arm tooling requires about 70 hours of manufacturing time, costs $7,000, and is generally delivered in about two weeks,” said David Askey, Chief Business Development Officer of Robai. “The use of FDM has made it possible to reduce the labor to about four hours, the cost to $400 and lead time to one day.”

The delivery of the 3D printed arm, as well as science experiments and other supplies, was Orbital ATK’s fifth Cygnus cargo delivery to the ISS, carried out under its Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. When the spacecraft reached the ISS, it was secured and brought into its berthing position by the giant Canadarm2, a 17.6 m (58 ft) robotic arm capable of handling payloads of up to 116,000 kg (256,000 lb).

Preparing the Cygnus spacecraft for launch

In addition to the Robai 3D printed arm and other equipment, the Orbital ATK spacecraft contained four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats, part of the Spire Global Inc. remote sensing satellite constellation that provides global ship tracking and weather monitoring. These CubeSats, which help to ensure the smooth running of the global shipping industry, were launched in a NanoRacks External Deployer installed on the outside of the Cygnus service module.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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