April 18, 2013
Additive manufacturing (AM) has a whole lot going on in the world, and, increasingly, has a lot going on out of this world as well. 3D printing in space is an idea that excites a lot of people. Both NASA and the ESA have notions about building moon bases using AM, and a proposal has been put forward to use the technology to build satellites in orbit.
Clearly, there are a lot of ideas floating around about using AM in space, and most of those ideas require ongoing research and development. That’s where Made in Space comes in. Founded in 2010, the company combines NASA research veterans, astronauts and entrepreneurs all brought together to explore the possibilities offered by off-planet 3D printing.
“3D printing and in-space manufacturing will dramatically change the way we look at space exploration, commercialization, and mission design today,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO and Co-Founder of Made In Space. “The possibilities range from building on-demand parts for human missions to building large space habitats that are optimized for space.”
In addition to the core team, Made in Space has partnerships with NASA, 3D Systems, Stratasys, MakerBot, Autodesk and many other companies that have an interest in furthering development of AM. The company has conducted several microgravity tests of how well material extrusion works in zero gravity, and is under contract with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to build the first 3D printer specifically designed for use in orbit.
Once the company has succeeded in proving they have a 3D printer ready for space, Made In Space will be responsible for designing an AM facility to be added to the ISS. The facility will be responsible for continuing research, and production of all sorts of useful items including replacement parts, tools, science equipment, and anything else that can be built using AM rather than having a new item shipped from Earth.
Made In Space is also interested in the idea of using large scale AM systems to produce vehicles and habitats designed specifically for space that could only be manufactured in space. This includes spaceships that would struggle to escape gravity, and other space exploration tools that could be designed and built without having to worry about surviving launch.
All this research is begging for a moon base. We have ideas, someone just needs to figure out a way to interest some corporations in funding the mission and companies like Made In Space will really take off.
Below you’ll find a TED talk from Jason Dunn, president and co-founder of Made in Space.
Source: Made in Space