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3D Printing… In Space?

3D Printing in SpaceA while back, we wrote about NASA’s plans to develop a 3D printer that can produce food. But even throughout that post–and others about 3D printing–we never thought that’d we see a 3D printer in space so soon.

As is turns out, though, the future is happening right now.

NASA recently announced that it will officially be ready to launch its zero-G ready 3D printer into space in 2014, just in time for the fifth SpaceX resupply of the International Space Station.

Being able to manufacture things in space should turn out to be very beneficial to the astronauts at the ISS, as before, even small parts that needed to be replaced would have to be sent up whenever a resupply took place.

But with the 3D printer on the ISS, those same small parts (and anything else that’s useful) can be made on the spot, saving time and energy.

In an interview with TechCrunch, the founders of Made In Space talked about why the project is so unique, noting that the “printer will be the first device to ever manufacture anything off of the Earth,” and that “NASA and other space entities will have the capability to repair their space missions on the fly if something goes wrong.”

Many people are curious about 3D printing’s real applications, and the fact that NASA itself is actually planning on sending a printer to the ISS ought to say a little bit about the technology’s usefulness. And we think that’s pretty cool.

The following video with NASA astronaut Timothy “TJ” Creamer tells (and shows) in a little more detail exactly how astronauts at the ISS will use 3D printing to their advantage.

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Image courtesy of Made In Space

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. 3D Printing In Action: Hands, Spoons, and Gold? | Manufacturing Nebraska linked to this post on September 5, 2013

    […] printing on the ISS. This last example is really just awesome. NASA is in the final stages of a plan to put a 3D printer on the International Space Station. The printer will be used for small replacement parts–which would otherwise have to be flown […]

  2. 4 Things You Probably Didn't Know About 3D Printing | Manufacturing Nebraska linked to this post on September 19, 2013

    […] great advocates for STEM skills and huge creators of new technology. They have a plan in place to send a 3D printer into space by next year, so that astronauts can make small parts that would otherwise have to be shipped up via rocket. […]

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