There are few technologies as exciting as 3-D printing and a prototype printer has been given the ‘all-clear' by NASA for a microgravity mission to the International Space Station.
In August, a small cube containing the first 3-D printer designed for space will be launched as a part of the SpaceX CRS-4 Dragon vehicle's resupply mission payload. Its job will be to prove that 3-D printing can indeed be achieved in the microgravity environment, potentially paving the way to wholesale printing of basic tools for use on board the orbiting outpost and beyond.
Made In Space? 3-D Printer Fit for Microgravity
The Made In Space printer passed NASA certification early, which allows the prototype to be flown aboard CRS-4 instead of a later resupply mission. It already has a wealth of technological development in the microgravity environment having been flown by Made In Space engineers on the Zero-G Corporation's modified Boeing 727 hyperbolic flights that simulate zero-gravity.
Through the use of extrusion-based additive manufacturing techniques, the printer is designed to build solid objects by printing them layer by layer. Initially the experiment will print 21 demonstration parts - including test coupons, parts and tools, according to a Made In Space press release - and the whole process will be carefully watched by project engineers via an HD video link for analysis.