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Thursday, August 28, 2014

NASA Embraces Additive for ISS

3d printing in space

A technician readies a desktop 3D printer for testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Center. Credit: NASA.

NASA has released a video outlining its plan to install a desktop 3D printer in the International Space Station (ISS) to rapidly reproduce needed items while orbiting the globe.

In June of next year, NASA will launch a 3D printer to the ISS aboard a SpaceX 5 rocket to test the efficacy of 3D printing parts in space. NASA claims it will start small with tiny widgets and everyday items astronauts need for organization and hygiene, but they hope to expand to provide anything via additive manufacturing.

“3D printing provides us the ability to do our own Star Trek replication right there on the spot,” NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer tells the video audience. “To help us replace things we’ve broken, replace things we’ve lost, or maybe make things that we’ve thought of that would be useful.” Essentially, astronauts could invent new products and create them on the fly.

“Whatever they have on board is what they have available,” says Niki Werheiser, lead for the 3D Printing in Zero-G ISS Technology Demonstration project. “Just like on the ground, you have parts that break or get lost. When that happens they have to wait for replacement parts, or use multiple spares, which does require extra mass.”

Check out the video below.

–Brian Lane

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