Portable On Board Printer 3D (Portable On Board Printer 3D) - 01.18.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, is a fast and reliable way to manufacture small plastic pieces of any shape, which can be used for a variety of tasks. Portable On Board Printer 3D demonstrates an automated 3-D printer that produces plastic objects on board the International Space Station (ISS). Results from this experiment may pave the way for the installation of a full-sized 3-D printer on board the ISS in the future.
Science Results for Everyone
Print me a wrench, will you? Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, quickly produces small plastic pieces for a variety of uses. The automated 3-D printer tested aboard the space station successfully created error-free samples. Each took approximately 50 minutes, with the only delay resulting from having to work around a missing cable during setup. After completing the test run, the unit returned to Earth on SpaceX-8. This experiment helps pave the way for installation of a full-sized 3-D printer aboard the space station in the future.

The following content was provided by Giorgio Musso, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Portable 3D Printer

Principal Investigator(s)
Giorgio Musso, Thales Alenia Space Italia S.p.A., Torino, Italy

Emilio Della Sala, Altran Italia S.p.A., Torino, Italy
Luca Enrietti, Altran Italia S.p.A., Torino, Italy

Altran Italia S.p.A, Torino, Italy
Thales Alenia Space - Italia, HQ, Rome, Italy
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Torino, Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Italian Space Agency (ASI)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2015 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • This research represents an initial step towards manufacturing objects directly onboard the ISS. The Portable On Board Printer 3D experiment is a demonstrator for a future digital-and-automated manufacturing facility on board the ISS, and other future manned spacecraft or planetary outposts.
  • This experiment consists of one automated-fabrication session producing one small object made of plastic. The entire demonstrator, and/or the manufactured object are returned to ground for analysis.
  • The research achieves an initial validation step for the introduction of this automated and flexible polymer forming technology on board the ISS, and for use as a promotion for further developments of 3D printing applications for use in space.

Information Pending

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Space Applications
Spacecraft contain countless small, unique parts, many of which require specialized tools to access or repair. A 3-D printer provides the ability to manufacture spare parts or simple tools on the spot. The Portable On Board Printer 3D investigation produces a 3-D fabricated object, whose manufacturing process is photographed and filmed at high resolution. The printer is returned to Earth with the printed object.

Earth Applications
Additive manufacturing is increasingly common on Earth, including among hobbyists, industrial designers and the manufacturing industry. Operating a 3-D printer in space further demonstrates the technology’s potential, and fosters a connection to the space program.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Information Pending

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

The on orbit ISS fabrication of test samples was successfully performed with no errors. The fabrications took approximately 50 minutes with the only off nominal items regarding finding a missing cable during the setup which made the setup go longer than expected as a work around had to be instigated. Upon completion of the test run, the unit was packed up and returned to Earth.

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Results Publications

    Musso G, Lentini G, Enrietti L, Volpe C, Ambrosio EP, Lorusso M, Mascetti G, Valentini G.  Portable on orbit printer 3D: 1st European additive manufacturing machine on International Space Station. Advances in Physical Ergonomics and Human Factors; 2016.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites

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Close-up pictorial representation of POP3D. Image courtesy of ASI. jcr

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Close-up pictorial representation of the Portable On Board Printer 3D. Image courtesy of ASI.

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