First 3D printer in space

It’s not just about 3D printing objects FOR space, its now about 3D printing objects IN space!

http://www.foxnews.com/…/world-first-3d-printer-in-space-w…/

The first 3D printer ever to fly in space will blast off this month, and NASA has high hopes for the innovative device’s test runs on the International Space Station.

The 3D printer, which is scheduled to launch toward the orbiting lab Sept. 19 aboard SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon cargo capsule, could help lay the foundation for broader in-space manufacturing capabilities, NASA officials said. The end result could be far less reliance on resupply from Earth, leading to cheaper and more efficient missions to faraway destinations such as Mars.

“The on-demand capability can revolutionize the constrained supply chain model we are limited to today and will be critical for exploration missions,” Niki Werkheiser, manager of NASA’s “3-D Printing in Zero-G” project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement. [3D Printing in Space (Photo Gallery)]

3D Printing in Zero-G is a collaboration between NASA and California-based startup Made in Space, which built the machine that’s heading to the space station this month. The microwave-size 3D printer was cleared for flight in April after an extensive series of tests at Marshall.

3D printers build objects layer by layer out of metal, plastic, composites and other materials, using a technique called extrusion additive manufacturing. NASA hopes Made in Space’s device works normally aboard the station, thus demonstrating that 3D printers can produce high-quality parts in space as well as on Earth.

If that turns out to be the case, replacing a broken part or tool aboard the orbiting lab could be a matter of simply pushing a button.

“I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission,” said NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, who lived aboard the space station from December 2009 to June 2010. “I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one. Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it.”

It will likely take the 3D printer from 15 minutes to an hour to print something aboard the space station, depending on the size and complexity of the object, researchers said. Blueprints for desired parts can be loaded onto the machine before launch or beamed up from the ground.

“This means that we could go from having a part designed on the ground to printed in orbit within an hour or two from start to finish,” Werkheiser said.

While the space station is the proving ground for this test, NASA officials see great potential for 3D printing beyond low-Earth orbit. For example, deep-space missions could benefit greatly from the technology, because it would be tough to ferry a spare part to a vessel already on its way to an asteroid or Mars.

“NASA is great at planning for component failures and contingencies. However, there’s always the potential for unknown scenarios that you couldn’t possibly think of ahead of time,” said Ken Cooper, principal investigator at Marshall for 3D printing. “That’s where a 3D printer in space can pay off. While the first experiment is designed to test the 3D printing process in microgravity, it is the first step in sustaining longer missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”

FOXNEWS.COM

by Mike Wall, Senior Writer | September 03, 2014

First 3D printed space camera!

3D printing continues to take over space technology with a flash, as NASA start creating the world’s first 3D printed space cameras!

http://www.foxnews.com/…/nasa-is-building-world-first-3d-p…/

3-d-camera-exploded-model

NASA is already using 3d printing to make rocket engine parts, a space pizza maker and even physical photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. But by the end of September, one NASA engineer expects to complete the first space cameras made almost entirely out of 3D-printed stuff.

“As far as I know, we are the first to attempt to build an entire instrument with 3D printing,” Jason Budinoff, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

Budinoff is building a 2-inch camera for a cubesat — a miniature satellite. The camera will have to pass vibration and thermal-vacuum tests next year to prove that it’s capable of space travel. Budinoff is also using 3D printing to build a 14-inch dual-channel telescope. [10 Ways 3D Printing Could Transform Space Travel]

Both instruments are being built to demonstrate how 3D printing (also called “additive manufacturing”) can be used as a boon for space exploration. The new technique could cut down both the time and cost of traditional manufacturing.

To build the 3D-printed instruments, first a computer-controlled laser melts down a pile of metal powder. It then fuses the melted metal into a specific configuration determined by a 3D computer design. The instruments are built and assembled layer by layer — like slices of bread from a loaf. The layered approach makes it possible to build in tiny internal features and grooves that are impossible to build using traditional manufacturing.

But the instruments are not deep-space ready — at least not yet, according to Budinoff.

“I basically want to show that additive-machined instruments can fly,”Budinoff said in the same statement. “We will have mitigated the risk, and when future program managers ask, ‘Can we use this technology?’ we can say, ‘Yes, we already have qualified it.'”

In the future, 3D printers could reduce the overall cost of building space exploring instruments. For example, Budinoff’s 3D printed camera only requires four separate pieces, whereas a conventional camera would require between five and 10 times the number of parts, according to Budinoff.

Budinoff is also working on a way to build 3D-printed metal mirrors. Mirrors are crucial parts of telescopes, and it may be possible to create them with powdered aluminum. Aluminum is notoriously porous, which makes it difficult to polish. If Budinoff’s theory is correct, then a process called “hot isostatic pressing” could convert the aluminum into a gleaming mirror.

The pressing technique involves taking a 3D printed aluminum mirror and placing it in a heated chamber under 15,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The intense heat and pressure would lower the aluminum’s surface porosity and create a polished mirror.

This kind of mirror could be especially useful for infrared instruments that must operate at extremely cold temperatures. Infrared sensors are usually made out of several different materials. But if all the parts were made out of aluminum, it would be easier to control the instrument’s temperature.

Budinoff will likely finish both instruments this year, and they will undergo spaceflight testing in 2015.

FOXNEWS.COM

by Kelly Dickerson, Staff Writer | August 11, 2014