First 3D-printed object developed in space by NASA and Made In Space Inc

Nov 27, 2014 09:18 IST

The first 3D-printed object was on 25 November 2014 developed in space by world's first zero-gravity 3D printer created by NASA and Made In Space Inc on the International Space Station (ISS).
The printer was delivered to the space station in September 2014 via a Space X Dragon capsule. NASA astronaut Barry Butch Wilmore, Expedition 42 commander installed the printer on 17 November 2014 at the International Space Station and conducted the first calibration test print.

Based on the test print results, the ground control team sent commands to realign the printer and printed a second calibration test on 20 November 2014. These tests verified that the printer was ready for manufacturing operations.

Made In Space engineers commanded the printer to make the first object while working with controllers at NASA’s Payload Operations Integration Centre in Huntsville.

The first object 3-D printed in space is the printhead faceplate that is engraved with names of the organizations that collaborated on this space station technology demonstration: NASA and Made In Space Inc.

As the first objects are printed, NASA and Made In Space engineers are monitoring the manufacturing via downlinked images and videos. The majority of the printing process is controlled from the ground to limit crew time required for operations.

The first objects built in space will be returned to Earth in 2015 for detailed analysis and comparison to identical ground control samples made on the flight printer. The goal of this analysis is to verify that the 3-D printing process works the same in microgravity as it does on Earth.

Zero-Gravity 3D printer
The 3D printer was developed under a contract with the firm Made In Space Inc which based in California. The purpose of the 3D printer is to experiment with the possibility of manufacturing crucial replacement parts on the station foregoing the expense of shipping them via rocket.

The 3-D Printing in Zero-Gravity Technology Demonstration on the space station aims to show that additive manufacturing can make a variety of 3-D printed parts and tools in space.

The 3-D printer uses a process formally known as additive manufacturing to heat a relatively low-temperature plastic filament and extrude it one layer at a time to build the part defined in the design file sent to the machine.

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