Space travel is presenting some challenges like propelling a space shuttle into space without it being damaged or causing injuries to the occupants. Once you are out in space, you have your basics that you could bring with you. Self-Sustainability might be presenting some issues here, and this is where 3D printing can be of tremendous benefit. As a result, NASA is taking this technology out to space as well.
3D Printing Used by NASA for Years Already
NASA has been making use of 3D printers long before the general public even knew that they even existed. These handy devices have been used to assist in manufacturing virtually anything from basic supporting brackets to the actual rocket engines, and this remarkable technology has now been sent out to space as well. A lot of people have been following this well-documented journey, from the first 3D printer arriving at the ISS space station right down to the production of the ever-famous first wrench tool.
Second 3D Printer in Space
Another 3D printer has been sent to the ISS space station, which will be able to print a wide variety of items. 3D printers have had great success on earth and have enabled numerous new or replacement items to be created. Made In Space has introduced some updates to their latest model that will allow the printing of many more items and components. Even although only three new materials have been sent out with this printer, it will be able to produce models from more than 30 new materials.
A Long-Lasting Solution
The Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) that is currently housing the new 3D printer is owned by Made In Space and it is a permanent facility attached to the ISS. It is estimated that this facility would be able to last just as long as the space station itself. The US National Laboratory, NASA and anyone else who wants to make use of these facilities would have to pay Made In Space for the privilege of doing so. Having an item printed at this facility is expected to cost anywhere from $6000 to $30000.
Cheaper Manufacturing Costs in Space
With the AMF, it is easier to ship raw materials to space and manufacture items than it is to transport the physical items. NASA and Made In Space are in the process of developing a new 3D printer named Archinaut that will be mounted on an external pod on the ISS. This printer is assisted with robotic arms and it will be able to manufacture even larger objects in the vacuum of space. The Archinaut should be able to repair machines and structures while in orbit and also have the ability to produce objects like satellite reflectors.
Eventually 3D printers will be used to manufacture other research facilities besides the ISS. The goal is to be able to make use of dirt, dust and other materials collected from places like the moon or mars to assist with the manufacturing process. Ultimately though, structures will be manufactured with these 3D printers that will be able to support long-term habitation for people – or even entire communities – far away from earth.