Made in Space Says 3D Printing Will Lead to ‘Real Exploration of Space’
By Bill Koenig
LONG BEACH, CA – 3D printing will lead to the “real exploration of space,” the chief technology officer of Made in Space said today at the RAPID Conference & Exposition in Long Beach, CA.
“Today, we do space as a camping trip,” Jason Dunn, who also co-founded the company in 2010, said at the SME trade show’s keynote speech. Until now, he said, manned space flights consisted of bringing along enough supplies for a mission.
For longer missions, “Space has a supply chain problem,” Dunn said. “3D printing and additive manufacturing is changing that.”
Made in Space produced a 3D printer for NASA that was installed in the International Space Station. It was used to produce plastic parts late last year.
One of the parts, a ratchet wrench, took two hours to produce, starting from when a digital file was sent to the space station until the printer completed its work. The same process would be used for a trip to Mars, Dunn said.
The parts produced in space have been sent back to earth and are being evaluated. “We know the process works,” Dunn said. “Now we’re understanding how well a space print works versus a ground print.”
Made in Space, based in Mountain View, CA, currently is building a second printer for the space station. That printer will be launched later this year, Dunn said.
During his presentation, Dunn showed a slide of a makeshift tool – a toothbrush taped to a metal bar -- used during a space flight.
“If you’re in space and the only thing you have to fix things is duct tape, you’ll take a 3D printer,” Dunn said.
Additive manufacturing will have future applications for space exploration, the executive said. “You can build larger, more fragile” objects in outer space that are “so sparse and delicate, they wouldn’t survive in this room but be perfect” for zero gravity.
What’s more, Dunn said experiments conducted in space may be conducted more quickly if 3D printing is available to make new parts. “Science in space is really slow today.”
Published Date : 5/19/2015