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A Historic First: NASA Successfully Uses a 3D Printer in Space

3DinSpaceDo you remember back in September when we told you about the small startup company with the big dream of sending a 3D printer to the International Space Station? They’re called Made in Space, Inc. and all their hard work has just paid off!

ArtNet.com is reporting that after ferrying this specially designed, one-of-a-kind 3D printer to the international space station, NASA astronauts have successfully printed a 3D object in outer space! Can you imagine the possibilities that this new technology might bring to the final frontier?

The historic first print was more or less a proof of concept print: the printer designed a functional addition to its own machinery, a faceplate with the NASA and Made in Space logos that will hold the wiring in place on its extruder printhead. Now that astronauts know the printer works onboard the ISS, they will be able to produce their own spare parts and objects using designs sent digitally from earth. “For the first time, it’s no longer true that rockets are the only way to send hardware to space,” Made In Space chief strategy officer Mike Chen said in a statement.

“Manufacturing components on demand will yield more efficient, more reliable and less Earth dependent space programs in the near future,” added director of research and development Mike Snyder. The ISS will still have to rely on resupply missions from Earth, but with the addition of this 3D printer, they can make virtually any tool, spare part or whatever they can think of…in space! (However, the art projects might need to take a back seat to the more pressing matters of space exploration).

The next step for this amazing machine is to compare objects it has printed in space to identical ones produced on the ground, to see how well they’re operating in microgravity. This really is a historic day for NASA, in an already groundbreaking (or should we say “ground-leaving?”) year for their scientists.

It’s also been a historic year for 3D printers as well, as ArtNet.com is reporting. This year saw the first concert being played on 3D printed instruments and even President Obama got in on the craze, becoming the first sitting president to have a 3D printer scan and print a bust of his head! It really does seem that there is no limit for human ingenuity these days. And we simply cannot wait for what 2015 will have in store for the future of technology!

photo credit: ArtNet.com

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