Tag Archives: NASA
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.
3D printing has hype and controversy, but what about adoption?
This is a guest post by UK-based Laser Lines Ltd, whose bio is at the end of the article.
Earlier this year it was announced that Maplin Electronics would be the first UK retailer to stock a home 3D printer. With all the hype and controversy surrounding this technology, it’s left many wondering if 3D printers will be the next big gadget to make their way into every home.
3D printing is the process of printing layers of material, usually plastic, on-top of one another to build up a 3D object. The Velleman K8200, which retails at £700, allows customers to 3D print any object they want from the comfort of their home, from a chess piece to mobile phone case. The plastics come in red, black, white, orange, green, yellow and pink, costing £30 for 1kg of the resin. Certainly an interesting addition to any home office but isn’t this a rather expensive way of reproducing items that would ordinarily cost just a few pounds?
The idea of everyday consumers being able to access 3D printers has already caused controversy in the US following the announcement of printable handgun blueprints online. The handgun, which would have been made from plastic if successfully produced in this way, could have gone undetected by standard security scanner.
Another widespread concern about 3D printers in the home is the likelihood of copyright infringement through the reproduction of products. Users would potentially be able to produce a 3D scan of a product and then using this scan blueprint re-create the object precisely at home.
Outside of the home however, 3D printing technology has been having far greater success. Manufacturers are able to benefit from quick prototype production, enabling sketched concepts to be swiftly tried and tested. The aerospace industry has already started producing fully functional parts via 3D print technology too, with NASA known for their frequent use of the procedure to make lightweight engine and shuttle parts. 3D printing has the potential to completely transform production supply chains, particularly when it comes to producing small parts that would have usually been shipped from one manufacturer to another.
There are incredible medical implications of this printing process too. Professionals believe that, ultimately, 3D printers could be produced to print living materials in place of plastics. Layering cells alongside a medical scaffolding substance called hydrogel, it should be possible to print the basis of human organs such as a liver or kidney, before leaving them to grown into the fully formed structure. Soon it will also be possible to print sophisticated human tissue specifically for pharmaceutical testing – which means risk free clinical testing and trials (though again a hugely controversial idea).
In conclusion, perhaps 3D printers will see their way into the homes of those who can afford such a novelty, but for the time being the real advantages will be found in manufacturing on professional scale machines. Even then 3D printing has a long way to go before it’s embraced by everyone.
About the author: This article is written by UK-based Laser Lines Ltd, a bespoke 3D printing company that have been providing 3D printing solutions for over 20 years. Visit their website to browse through their collection.
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NASA calls 3D printing “game changing for new mission opportunities”
This space technology demonstration may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, saving American companies time and money.
NASA‘s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland conducted the successful tests for Aerojet Rocketdyne through a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement.
A series of firings of a liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly demonstrated the ability to design, manufacture and test a highly critical rocket engine component using selective laser melting manufacturing technology. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and fabricated the injector by a method that employs high-powered laser beams to melt and fuse fine metallic powders into three dimensional structures.
“NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington. “3D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.”
This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost.
“Rocket engine components are complex machined pieces that require significant labor and time to produce. The injector is one of the most expensive components of an engine,” said Tyler Hickman, who led the testing at Glenn.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s additive manufacturing program manager, Jeff Haynes, said the injector represents a significant advancement in application of additive manufacturing, most often used to make simple brackets and other less critical hardware. “The injector is the heart of a rocket engine and represents a large portion of the resulting cost of these systems. Today, we have the results of a fully additive manufactured rocket injector with a demonstration in a relevant environment.” he said.
Glenn and Aerojet Rocketdyne partnered on the project with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. At the Air Force lab, a unique high-pressure facility provided pre-test data early in the program to give insight into the spray patterns of additively manufactured injector elements.
“Hot fire testing the injector as part of a rocket engine is a significant accomplishment in maturing additive manufacturing for use in rocket engines,” said Carol Tolbert, manager of the Manufacturing Innovation Project at Glenn. “These successful tests let us know that we are ready to move on to demonstrate the feasibility of developing full-size, additively manufactured parts.”
For more information about Aerojet Rocketdyne, visit: http://www.rocket.com
For information about NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/glenn
For more information about the Air Force Research Laboratory, visit: http://www.afrl.af.mil
The Manufacturing Innovation Project is supported by the Game Changing Technology Program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech