The folks on board of the ISS have a varied job list. They have to keep the space station in top order. They also must compile reports, conduct experiments and even exercise! But recently they have done something brand new. The International Space Station crew have just undertaken an installation of a 3D printer. The Zero-G is the very first 3D printer that has been designed and built for zero gravity. According to Gigaom, The printer was designed by Bay Area startup, Made In Space, and it arrived on the International Space Station on Sept. 22.
If a spare part on the International Space Station breaks, there is now an option to reconstruct it, without the team waiting for another resupply mission to dock with ISS. The Made In Space team on Earth would be able to design a new part to be re-printed by the astronauts.
Made In Space CEO Aaron Kemmer explained in a blog post, “Everything that has ever been built for space has been built on the ground…This new capability will fundamentally change how the supply and development of space missions is looked at.” He continued, “Placing additive manufacturing in space will lead to similar capabilities on every future space station, deep space exploration vehicle, and space colony…Rapid construction of important materials is a critical need if humans are going to establish a greater footprint in our universe.”
Interestingly, we still do not know if the technology will actually work. Made In Space have said the Zero-G printer has been tested in parabolic arc flights which give a few seconds of weightlessness, but it still remains to be seen if its extrusion process can actually function in the microgravity of the ISS. The Zero-G printer will 3D Print 22 test components that will then be returned to Earth for analysis (Gigaom reports).
[Image via 3dprinting]