How NASA Plans to Use a Zero-Gravity 3D Printer in Space (Video)
NASA has announced that it will be sending the first 3D printer to space in August 2014. It’s not just a PR stunt, NASA sees real utility in having 3D printing capabilities on the International Space Station (ISS).
One benefit is creating replacement parts onsite. It is hard and expensive to send parts up to the space station. When something breaks, it may take months or years to replace. With a 3D printer, this can be shrunk to hours and digital designs can be sent from ground control.
Another project that is creating excitement is the KickSat cube satellites. Instead of sending full satellites up to space, astronauts can 3D print small, cube-shaped satellites, fit them with circuit boards, and literally toss them out the window of the space station.
3D printing in space is not easy, though. The way that plastic, or other materials, extrude and bind in zero gravity is different than on Earth. NASA has partnered with Made in Space, an organization that is composed of 3D printing experts and engineers, to develop the custom 3D printer for NASA. Made in Space has already tested their 3D printer on a parabolic flight and is scheduled to send it to space in August 2014.
Watch this new video from NASA to learn more and get a glimpse of the 3D printer model, which itself was 3D printed.