back to article NASA finds use for 3D printers: Launch them into SPAAACE

NASA has commissioned a custom 3D printer capable of working in microgravity that will be sent to the International Space Station to build parts for the facility and the scientific experiments it contains. Testing zero G printing in space Zero G flights are good for testing, bad for hair The printer has been designed by …


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  1. Captain DaFt


    "We're taking additive manufacturing technology to new heights"

    And I'll bet he said it with a straight face.

  2. Martin Budden Bronze badge


    Nice to see they are using extrusion deposition; powder would be a nightmare in microgravity!

    (Of course we'd expect such clever boffins to have already thought of something obvious like that).

    1. Crisp

      Re: extrusion

      From what I've seen in videos, powders tend to clump together in micro-gravity due to electrostatic forces between the individual grains.

      Fast, repeatable clumping of solid particles in microgravity.

  3. Old Handle

    That's actually a pretty smart application. I don't know how robust the material they're working with is, but at least in theory being able to create small tools and replacement parts on demand in space sounds very useful indeed. It could not only create anything needed unexpectedly (instead of having to wait weeks for it to be sent up) but also reduce the amount and variety of spares they need to keep on hand.

    Of course they wouldn't want to rely on it for anything critical. (The printer itself could break, after all.) But just for example, there must be dozens of little clips and connectors they use to keep things form drifting around the station.

    What would by really neat is if it could melt down and recycle the parts it makes, but I suppose that's unlikely.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    *simple* idea but a b**ger to get right.

    Zero g rheology.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Thumbs up for this. While it man not seem like it this work, along with the asteroid re-direct mission, could be the start of a whole different (and much more affordable) approach to doing space projects and (maybe) even getting to Mars.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, rheology!

      I thought you said theology.

      Gods in SPAAACE!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think they have misunderstood the Lohan challange.

    It's a 3D Printed rocket plane guys not a 3D printer in a rocket...

  6. M7S


    I'd love to see the faces in Mission Control if they get a request from above for the plans.

    To be clear I don't mean the DSV, lovely bit of design that it is, although that would also be an interesting build.

  7. Ben Rose

    Houston we have a problem...

    Apollo 13 wouldn't have been anything like as good a story if they had one of these on board.

  8. John 110

    First step...

    First step to making a Mars rocket in orbit?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: First step...

      "First step to making a Mars rocket in orbit?"

      What do you think the "Asteroid capture" mission is for?

      Why spend $5Bn to haul 500 tonnes of spaceship into LEO when you can spend $2Bn and nudge a 500 tonne rock into orbit.

      Nothing gives radiation shielding like a couple of metres of solid rock.

  9. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge


    Does this mean that the Playmonaut now has access to "transporter" technology?

    1. no-one in particular

      Re: Hmm...

      Only if you remember to render down the original after transmission - then use that to build the next "transportee". Rotating knives, what rotating knives?

  10. tony


    Can it print an Inanimate Carbon Rod?

  11. Annihilator Silver badge

    Make it so..

    "Tea, Earl Grey, hot"

  12. Brennan Young

    "Orbiting national laboratory"

    Isn't it the *International* Space Station?

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