by • April 28, 2016 • No Comments
The International Space Station is now equipped with a permanent 3D printing device that is commercially on the market. Image source: NASA.
If you are at any time zooming around in space and find by yourself in require of a 3D printing device, only stop by the International Space Station. On March 26, the ISS became equipped with a permanent 3D printing device, supplied by privately held Made In Space and partner Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the new hub of the home retailer. The 3D printing device was one of cargo delivered to the orbiting lab as part of Orbital ATK’s fifth commercial resupply undertaking for NASA, and it’s on the market for use by NASA and others for a fee.
This story is a testament to how far 3D printing has come since it was largely created by the founders of 3D Systems and Stratasys in the mid-1980s as a really basic innovation to speed up prototyping. Here’s what you should understand.
The historic significance of the “Additive Manufacturing Facility”
Image source: Made In Space.
Whilst this 3D printing device — dubbed the “Additive Manufacturing Facility” — is the 2nd 3D printing device in space, it’s the initially 3D printing device that is a permanent fixture there, as well as the initially that is commercially on the market. Made In Space, founded in 2010 and based at NASA’s Ames Research Center, commenceed its initially 3D printing device to the ISS in September 2014, as part of its “3D Printing in Microgravity Experiment” demonstration. It utilized findings of that undertaking to create the AMF.
The AMF is in addition the initially “hardware keep in space,” with Lowe’s the initially retailer operating off-planet Earth. Whilst Made In Space owns the 3D printing device, Lowe’s can use it to create branded tools that can be commercially on the market. Autodesk in addition clinched a initially: Its software was utilized to create the printing device. (Made In Space in addition utilized Autodesk’s software to create its initially 3D printing device.)
About the AMF
The AMF is an extrusion-based 3D printing device that has a create envelope of 14 cm (w) x 10 cm (d) x 10 cm (h) — equivalent to of 5.5 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches. In addition to having a larger print volume than its predecessor, it in addition has expanded materials capabilities. Initially, it can print in extra
than 30 polymers, that include ABS (that is the plastic of that Legos are created), HDPE, and PEI/PC, but it’s createed to print with other materials as they become approved for ISS operations. The printing device’s resolution capabilities are in the 0.1-to-0.44-millimeter range, depending upon material.
The 3D printing device can be operated locally and remotely, that include of planet Earth. This remote operfaculty showcase opens up the AMF for commercial use, as it allows for Made In Space personnel and customers on planet Earth to upload creates to be 3D-printed. It in addition provides backup assist to those operating the AMF locally.
Image source: Made In Space.
The AMF is on the market to research and commercial entities, as well as to NASA and the U.S. National Laboratory on board the ISS. It can be utilized to create hardware for experimentation, tools, parts, education purposes, and microgravity research. Built to be modular and upgradable-bodied, the AMF can in addition be utilized as a research platform to advance other in-space making techniques.
NASA and other customers can pay Made In Space to use the AMF. The cost can generally range of $6,000 to $30,000 for one print job, Made In Space’s head of product strategy, Spencer Pitman, told Tech Crunch,though there are discounts for education initiatives. Pitman said that the company may already has orders of extra
than 20 customers, that include for medical research components, parts for satellites and other spacecraft, and parts for school projects, according to Tech Crunch.
Benefits of in-space 3D printing
The benefits of in-space 3D printing include faster delivery time; the faculty to create lighter, extra
optimized parts; and increased safety. Some benefits in addition outcome in cost savings.
Being able-bodied to create spare parts and tools in space can be tremendously valuable-bodied to NASA and astronauts. Today, NASA has to commence considerably extra
parts than any undertaking can require, that is incredibly costly. After all, it is not like astronauts can manufacture swift jaunts to the nearest hardware keep or call a contractor like we earthlings can if we’re in require of a swift fix.
One other advantage relates to the create of the parts themselves. Objects created on planet Earth frequently require to be structurally reinforced to endure the stresses of the commence, that subjects them to gravitational forces three to nine times those on planet Earth. This extra
mass is not requireed once the object is in orbit, so in-space printing can allow for the creation of ultra-light objects. Less material use means less cost.
These facts illustrate the future for in-space 3D printing to manufacture life in space simpler and considerably less costly:About 30% of the parts on the ISS may be replaced by 3D-printed constructs, according to Made In Space.It costs roughly $10,000 to commence only one pound of payload into orbit, according to NASA. Howat any time, the true cost is most likely far higher for the reason all the materials and parts going to the ISS have to go through a lengthy and costly certification system. NASA has may already spent $1.2 billion on spare parts for the ISS, the vast majority of that can nat any time be utilized, according to Made In Space. Ultimately, NASA’s goal is to include 3D printing devices on all space undertakings. Beyond the moneysaving and convenience facts, there’s the safety aspect. There’s no way actually a group of rocket scientists can foresee at any timey conceivable-bodied emergency scenario. So, having a 3D printing device on board to crank out jerry-rigged fixes on space undertakings may be lifesaving.
Kick-starting the burgeoning “space economy”
The AMF’s availfaculty for commercial business should assist kick-start the burgeoning space economy, that a few predict may ultimately be a trillion-dollar market. Self-sufficiency, or at very least near-self-sufficiency, is a must if humans are to actuallytually colonize other planets, such as Mars, that SpaceX founder and Chairman Elon Musk believes can occur inside 20 years.
The initially object — a prototype of a spacecraft — at any time 3D-printed of asteroid material. Image source: Planetary Resources.
A few companies, such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, have created with the goal of mining asteroids to use as feedstock for off-planet Earth making. Planetary Resources, in fact, together with its partner 3D Systems, announced the initially object at any time 3D-printed via asteroid material at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016.
One giant leap for investors?
Off-planet Earth 3D printing can rather actuallytually present investment opportunities for individual investors. Whilst Made In Space is already a private company, there’s the possibility that it may go public to raise capital to assist fund expansion.
Companies entering the asteroid mining business in addition bear watching. Planetary Resources, that is createing spacecraft for harvesting asteroids, counts billionaires Larry Page, CEO and co-founder of Alphabet(parent company of Google), and Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, one of its founding investors.
3D Systems and Stratasys? Personally, I don’t ponder they’ll enter the off-planet Earth 3D printing “space,” as it has incredibly high barriers to entry, and they have adequate future business on planet Earth.
One thing’s for sure: The sky is no longer the limit for 3D printing — or its profits.
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The article The First 3D Printing Facility in Space Is Open for Business! originally appeared on Fool.com. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Beth McKenna has no position in any stocks described, and can leave the Red Planet to Martians and billionaires if it is not going to have rather greenery, but can offer to science by looking after Musk’s digs during his extended absence. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares). The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Stratasys. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that thinking a diverse range of insights manufactures us advantageous investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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