Update: NASA 3D Printer for Space Passes First Tests
Made in Space deputy program manager Matthew Napoli examines a piece printed by the engineering test unit 3D printer, shown inside the Marshall Space Flight Center's Microgravity Science Glovebox. (Source: Marshall Space Flight Center)
Jim, I'd like to go up there, too. I've been dreaming about it since I was a little kid. Re microG 3D printing, since the properties of 3D printer materials must have certain characteristics to work--both in the machine and in terms of how they build an object with the right specs--it may not be possible to make them much differently, and/or it can take a long time to figure out how to do so. Same goes for the machine itself. Actually, this design process has proceeded in the opposite direction from the one you suggest: it began with sending 3D printers designed to work on Earth into micro-G environments and seeing what happened, then designing a prototype somewhat like them and continually tweaking it to work in space.
Understood. Experience teaches. The scenario I was considering was this: Astronauts in Gemini & early Apollo used to eat freeze-dried food; while later astronauts in Shuttle & Station missions enjoyed real food, such as broccoli with cheese sauce, whose natural "stickiness" kept food on a plate, keeping it from floating away.
Point being, the first-attempts always tend to start with extreme caution for prevention; then loosen as experience teaches.
IN the case of the FDM process for Zero-G, as your article eluded, the preliminary results are all very encouraging because the process seems to be working. As I eluded, I think it's a natural. But I understand your very logical explanation.
I only wish I had the chance to experience Space; I'm certain my perspective would change!
Jim, nothing works in zero-G (actually, micro-G on the ISS, a plant or an asteroid) like it does in full 1G on Earth. Fluids don't flow right, and mechanics are completely different since force isn't the same. There's just as much effort involved in this project as in any other for an item that has to work "up there" for astronauts. Same goes for robotics, BTW, like the Mars and Moon rovers.
Ann- I'm missing the challenge of this effort – it seems to me it would be a naturally incremental advancement to place any FDM apparatus into zero gravity. Consider even the lowest-end offering, such as the familiar MakerBOT. It is data-fed by a laptop, mechanically driven using direct geared servos (which are gravity agnostic) and thermally/chemically bonded between printed layers. The natural "stickiness" of each subsequently printed layer holds it naturally in "place" as it bonds and cools before the next subsequent layer is printed. The whole system seems naturally suited to adaptation into a zero-gravity environment. The one point that needs advancement could be the printed resolution. Where MakerBOT (and other FDM's) are typically .004", the more refined Objet LaserJet solids are 10x better, at about .0004". But that, too is a natural incremental advancement the FDM industry will pursue. Zero-Gravity seems like a freebie to me.
It's the first step to the StarTrek Replicator. (One Martini, extra dry, please).
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.