3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration (3D Printing In Zero-G) - 03.04.14
ISS Science for Everyone
Science Objectives for Everyone
The 3-D Printing In Zero-G technology demonstration experiment will show that a 3-D printer can work normally in space. A 3-D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create three-dimensional objects. Testing a 3-D printer on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing a working machine shop in space, a critical component for astronaut missions and in-space manufacturing.
Science Results for Everyone
OpNom 3D Printing In Zero-G
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States
Made In Space, Inc., Moffett Field, CA, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)
ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014
Previous ISS Missions
The 3D PRINTING IN ZERO-G Technology Demonstration will serve as a proof-of-concept test of the properties of melt deposition modeling additive manufacturing in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS). The lessons learned from this technology demonstration will be used for the next generation of melt deposition modeling in the permanent Nanoracks Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), as well as for any future additive manufacturing technology NASA plans to use, such as metals or electronics in-space manufacturing, on both the ISS and Deep Space Missions. This demonstration is the first step towards realizing a “machine shop” in space, a critical enabling component of any Deep Space Mission. The 3D PRINTING IN ZERO-G is a product of commercial company Made In Space, Inc. (MIS), and will be acquired by NASA through a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase III contract. The project’s goal will be to raise the technology readiness level (TRL) of the 3D PRINTING IN ZERO-G from 5 to 9, making it the first demonstration of additive manufacturing in space. In addition, the lessons learned will be infused into industry with the production of the permanent Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF).
If successful, this project will provide:
1. The first demonstration of additive manufacturing in space
2. A detailed analysis of how acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) thermoplastic resin behaves in microgravity
3. A comparison between additive manufacturing in Earth’s gravity and in consistent, long-term exposure to microgravity (insufficient in parabolic flights due to “print-pause” style of printing)
4. Advance the TRL of additive manufacturing processes to provide risk reduction and capabilities to future flight or mission development programs
5. The gateway to fabricating parts on-demand in space, thus reducing the need for spare parts on the mission manifest
6. A technology with the promise to provide a significant return on investment by enabling future NASA missions that would not be feasible without the capability to manufacture parts in situ.
7. The first step towards evolving additive manufacturing for use in space and on Deep Space Missions
3-D printing serves as a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, reducing the need for costly spares on the International Space Station and future spacecraft. Long-term missions would benefit greatly from having onboard manufacturing capabilities. Data and experience gathered in this demonstration will improve future three-dimensional manufacturing technology and equipment for the space program, allowing a greater degree of autonomy and flexibility for astronauts.
The experiment compares 3-D printed objects made on Earth with those made in microgravity. Insight into how 3-D printing works in microgravity could improve 3-D printing methods for industry. The experiment includes student activities, in particular a project allowing students to design items to be 3-D printed on the space station by crew members.
Ground Based Results Publications
Made in Space
Michael Snyder and Aaron Kemmer monitoring the performance of extruders inside the Made In Space experiment box during a microgravity portion of flight aboard a modified Boeing 727 from the Zero G Corporation.
Image credit: Made In Space, Inc.
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Aboard a modified Boeing 727 from the Zero G Corporation, the Made In Space team monitors and records each of the 3D printers in operation inside the experiment box as the simulated gravity environment reaches -.01g, as noted by the monitor in the background. In picture: Michael Snyder, Alison Lewis, and Aaron Kemmer. Image credit: Made In Space, Inc.
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