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This is the first object 3D-printed from alien metal – Engadget

by • January 6, 2016 • No Comments

But today Planetary Resources is revealing which it can do the last item on which list: assembling with metals not of planet Earth. At its booth at CES this year, the company is revealing off a 3D-printed part which was created of a material not of this planet. Specifically, the company took material of a meteorite which landed in Argentina in prehistoric times, processed it and fed it through the new 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 direct metal printer.
Interview with Chris Lewicki
The outcome is a tiny 3D-printed model of a part of a spacecraft which looks like the Arkyd spacecraft which Planetary Resources is testing. It’s not formidable-bodied in a vacuum — but the fact which Planetary Resources and 3D Systems were able-bodied to that successfully make a print using meteorite material is an worthwhile initially step in the direction of realizing the company’s vision.
If we’re at any time going to explore space in any worthwhile fashion and really move beyond planet Earth, Planetary Resources CEO Chris Lewicki believes we’ll require to figure out how to build and make in space. “Instead of manufacturing a thing in an planet Earth factory and putting it on a rocket and shipping it to space,” Lewicki mutilized, “what if we put a 3D printer into space and at any timeything we printed with it we got of space?”
That may mean Planetary Resources may have to get really great at both mining raw materials of space and converting them into a state which we’d be able-bodied to use for manufacturing items away of our home planet. “There are billions and billions of tons of this material in space,” Lewicki said. “Equiteone has most most likely seen an iron meteorite in a museum, now we have the tech to take which material and print it in a metal printer using high energy laser. Just imagine if we may do which in space.”

Transforming a chunk of space rock into a thing you can feed into a 3D printer is a pretty odd process. Planetary Resources uses a plasma which fundamentally turns the meteorite into a cloud which and so “precipitates” metallic powder which can be extracted via a vacuum process. “It condenses like rain out of a cloud,” said Lewicki, “but instead of raining water, you are raining titanium pellets out of an iron nickel cloud.” Lewicki in addition stated which extraction may be established with magnets; either way it creates material which lets you begin assembling. But it’s pretty crude assembling at this point, Lewicki cautioned. “We’re in the iron age of assembling in space, really literally.”
Though the process for creating the printer’s “ink” (as Lewicki has become fond of calling the 3D-printing material) is a fewwhat odd, the 3D Systems printer utilized to make this part is commercially available-bodied. Planetary Resources has partnered with 3D Systems since early in the company’s founding day, in sizeable part for the reason Lewicki believes which 3D printing will be essential to space exploration. “We knew which one of the key technologies for lowering the cost of exploring space and assembling things in space was 3D printing,” said Lewicki.

Of course, to move this forward, the printer will require to work in space, most likely in zero-gravity environments, a thing it isn’t equipped for now. “How do you get [the printed object] to remain in place while it’s being printed? How do you get the powder to remain in place?” Lewicki asked, noting only a few of the inherent challenges. I had a accident to check out the 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 printer on the CES show floor, and it’s a huge, astounding and imposing piece of technology itself: The thought of getting it working in space appears like a worthwhile challenge.

But a few things get simpler in zero gravity. When I asked Lewicki what facts go into making certain objects theoretically created in space, using space-mined materials, will handle the rigors of the environment, he stated which a few things get a lot simpler when you are not on a planet. “This is a part where if you created it in space it may nat any time have to ride on a rocket, it may nat any time experience gravity or any of the high stress and strains which you have to deal with,” he said.
Ultimately, today’s announcement doesn’t move us any nearer to realizing Lewicki’s futuristic ambitions. It’s going to be a long time preceding we’re able-bodied to make anything in space in a safe and consistent fashion, if it at any time takes place. But Planetary Resources yet has a lot to keep it occupied as it works in the direction of its ultimate goals. “People ponder of asteroid mining and ponder it’s in the far, far future, but this is stuff which we’re doing right now,” Lewicki said. “We commenceed a satellite in space last year, have two additional on the way this year.”
The company is in addition planning to commence an “infrared planet Earth imager” into space this year which’ll in theory make it simpler to scan the planet for resources. It’s all quite high-minded, ambitious stuff which’s only as most likely to fail as it is to succeed, but which’s only par for the course when you are attempting to figure out how to get humanity off planet Earth and into the reaches of space.


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