The company's founders include engineer Stephen Covey, who has a patent application pending for what he calls a "Microgravity Foundry," - a 3D printer that uses lasers to etch patterns in a nickel-charged gas. The process deposits the metal in precise patterns, similar to how Earth-based 3D printers use nickel powder to produce components.
There should be more than enough asteroids to go around. Recent surveys, initially launched to find asteroids with the potential to hit Earth, are adding about 1,000 targets a year to the list of nearby asteroids, the vast majority of which pose no threat.
Currently there's about 9,500 known near-Earth asteroids, about 850 of which are bigger than 1 kilometer (.62 mile).
"They are the planet-busters. If they hit the Earth there is worldwide climate disruption. They're the sorts of things that killed off the dinosaurs," said mining consultant Mark Sonter, a Deep Space Industries science adviser.
About 2,900 of the known asteroids are bigger than about 300 meters (984 feet) and millions in the 10-meter to 20-meter (33- to 66-foot) diameter range.