NASA projects advance technology for additive manufacturing in space

By Tracey Schelmetic, for Design News

Mar 29, 2017

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While manufacturing companies and parts suppliers are embracing additive manufacturing (AM) for a variety of applications, the technology is particularly relevant in operations in remote locations that are difficult to supply such as oil platforms or remote mining operations. There is perhaps no location more remote and difficult to supply than space.

In 2014, NASA launched the first 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS). The hardware for the mission, a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer designed to manufacture parts made of ABS plastic, was built and operated by Mountain View, California-based Made in Space, Inc. The goal of the project was to demonstrate the feasibility of AM in the space environment.

The first phase of the operation consisted of the creation of mechanical test coupons to assess the performance of the printer and match the quality to that of identical items printed by the same printer on Earth. Made in Space has subsequently built on the success of the first mission by developing the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a multi-material FDM printer developed in partnership with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a nonprofit focused on the commercialization of the space station.

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