3D Printing in Space and for Space: Future of Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing in Space and for Space
3D Printing in Space and for Space

NASA is a real pioneer when it comes to exploring the future of 3D printing in space, as it provides financing for numerous innovative technologies. Today, space travel goods and components are made using 3D printers, which are also installed aboard spacecraft for use in research and maintenance. Even life habitats are now grown using 3D printing space applications technology. One of the primary motivating factors for NASA’s enthusiastic embrace of 3D printing remains this tech’s cost. Production of one-of-a-kind formworks and moulds, which are essential for manufacturing many components of a spaceship, incurs enormous costs and slows iterative development of design and engineering. But 3D printers are gradually solving these challenges.

How is 3d printing used in space exploration?

3D printing in space industry allows the on-demand fabrication of unique 3D printed space components. It does not cost more to just print a new design on a subsequent print job, whereas more complicated designs do not increase manufacturing costs. 3D printing advantages are now many. 3D printed components can be used for large-scale manufacturing and industrial projects due to recent advancements when using industrial 3D printers. These machines can now make items that are colossal, lightweight, and robust. 

Moreover, 3D printed object designs are indeed very complicated. Because of this, industrial 3D printing and space are becoming increasingly more attractive terms that any engineer prefers to use together. 3D printing in space satisfies the need for low production numbers, higher flexibility in design, and cheap cost, all of which are required for astronaut missions. One of the most significant ways how 3D printing is making its stance is via testing conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) to determine whether AM is the technology that can be used effectively even in microgravity conditions.

Why is 3D printing important in space?

Orbital Today wrote that many other businesses, including manufacturing, engineering, and construction industry, already understand how important 3D printing in aerospace is. A significant number of NASA astronauts and engineers already use 3D printing extensively in space. Cost reductions provided by 3D printing continue to contribute to an ongoing effort to reduce space exploration costs as the technology continues to advance, developing more and more capabilities. And it’s not all about 3D printed space components for spacecraft or astronaut clothes. It’s much more than that, as 3D printers can create pretty much anything with the right feedstock. 

We could already speak of a new 3D printing in space industry since even 3D printed space food seems to exist. The last few years have seen several new initiatives that combine 3D printing technology with food production for space travel. One of them features the Israeli startup Aleph Farms, already successful in creating a 3D printed cell-based meat with the same taste, structure, and feel as traditional steak. Their 3D printer was owned by Bioprinting Solutions. Knowing this, you can only imagine how important 3D printing can become for astronauts on the ISS or onboard spacecraft, as they need food to survive just as much as we need down here, on Earth. 

Could 3D printing become the future of space exploration?

Challenges of 3d printing in space are still many and should be addressed, but this doesn’t mean that in the not-too-distant future, big 3D can’t be used to manufacture space homes, launch sites, and landing pads. These objects would all be capable of sustaining life in space. In the construction industry, AM technology is used in harsh situations like environmental disaster relief. 3D printing is standard practice in such situations, as shelters or other buildings can be rapidly constructed using 3D printers, not to mention that this process can continue around the clock without putting endangering people’s lives. 

3D printers can become a means of constructing future space infrastructure projects. Besides, 3D printing in space can also play a significant role in colonizing Mars. For instance, in 2020, NASA sent its Perseverance Rover equipped with 11 metal pieces and tools produced on a 3D printer to the Red Planet. Traditional manufacturing could not achieve such high precision and low mass targeting made possible by 3D printing. The Perseverance spacecraft mission is to investigate whether there was microbial life on Mars, so you can imagine what 3D printed tools are needed for such a mission. And this is only the beginning of how 3D printers push our industries further – soon enough, we will definitely see more advances in various industries, and new technologies will play their major part in this process.