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Astronauts Use 3D Printers in Space to Build Tools

3D CAD SERVICESOnce again, 3D printing is in the spotlight with more innovative news! This time, it’s in space! Believe it or not…

According to computerworld.com, “NASA and Made In Space, Inc., which partnered to install the first zero-g 3D printer onboard the orbiting laboratory, have released the file used to 3D print a ratcheting socket wrench on the space station earlier this month. The 4.5-inch-long (11.4 centimeters) tool was not the first 3D object to be printed off the planet, but it made history as the first part to be transmitted to space for manufacture.”

This comes after many articles we’ve published about 3D printing and so far, this is the most exciting! This type of printing is evolving every single day. We are eager to learn more about all that’s happening in space with 3D printing!

“We are breaking new ground, not only in the way we manufacture in space, but also in the way we operate and approve space hardware that is built in space,” said Niki Werkheiser, NASA’s 3D printer program manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “If you can transmit a file to the station as quickly as you can send an email, it opens up endless possibilities for all the types of things that you can make.”

The wrench that was made took four hours to create. This actually saved NASA a great deal of money. Did you know that it costs $10,000 per kilogram to send something into space via a rocket? While it might seem unbelievable, it actually costs ten thousand dollars to send a liter of water into space.

That’s the biggest reason this new way of printing is most beneficial. NASA will spend much less money, as they tend to send more objects than necessary on a trip to space, to ensure the astronauts have what they need.

The partnering companies plan to build a 3D printing station that will be available for use by all astronauts, regardless of what nation they are from.

The 3D printer station will be able to receive .stl (stereolithography) files with CAD designs transmitted from earth to print a variety of tools astronauts may need, according to Jason Dunn, CTO of Made In Space.

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