By Umay Salma
This post has also been published on wonderfulengineering.com by the same author.
Most 3D printers depend on gravity: The material drops from an extruder onto a print plate layer by layer to build objects from the ground up. But what if you wanted to 3D print something in space, where there is no gravity?
The life of many astronauts is soon going to be very easy as NASA clears 3D printer to be launched in space. The spacemen receive this news with much happiness as it would save them from the months of wait for the replacement parts. They will now be able to use this 3D printer to fabricate the tool, utilizing a variety of materials, as and when they need, and will work with same efficiency with which they can work on the Earth. This also saves tons of fuel needed to carry these goods all the way to space. And hence, the space exploration is going to be much cheaper than it was ever!
The printer was made by a California startup called ‘Made In Space’ and tested at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The printer is planned to be installed in a part of the International Space Station known as the Microgravity Science Glovebox, or MSG. The first challenge for the 3D printer will be to craft 21 tools and test parts, which will then be sent back to Earth to check their accuracy.
The European Space Agency is also on a similar mission of printing 3D spacecraft parts through its AMAZE project. This, definitely, is one giant step in history of space exploration.