Will 3D printing in space allow us to build new worlds?

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-3d-printing-space-allow-us-build-new-worlds/

Will 3D printing in space allow us to build new worlds?

So far, space travel is limited because we have to transport everything we need using rockets. But what if we could build whatever we needed? Jason Dunn, whose company built the first 3D printer to operate in space, shares his Brief but Spectacular take on the future of self-sufficiency in space travel.

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Now to our weekly feature Brief But Spectacular.

Tonight, we hear from Jason Dunn of Made In Space, a company based out of Singularity University, the California-based firm responsible for making the first 3-D printer to operate out of this world.

JASON DUNN, Made In Space: I think that, in our lifetime, everybody we know will have a chance to go to space.

It’s really hard to do space exploration today, because we are dependent on bringing everything on rockets from the surface of the planet. So, what we started working on was the idea of 3-D printing in space and in fact just building the things you need wherever you need it.

Today’s version of space exploration is like a camping trip. We bring everything we need with us, and, if something goes wrong, we go back home really quick or we call home and ask for some help.

So if we want to go live on Mars one day or go back to the moon and set up a base, we need to learn how to be self-sufficient in the way we explore space.

Figuring out how to make a 3-D printer work in zero gravity was one of the most difficult parts. We got to take our 3-D printers into an aircraft that flies acrobatic maneuvers in the sky. You get a little period of weightlessness and you actually float inside of the airplane.

Everything is falling into place that we can actually send people to Mars and to the moon and to the asteroids, that we can build entirely new worlds of our own like large space stations. And that’s really the vision, is that we have the entire universe at our disposal to go out and explore.

Growing up in Florida was — for me, it was a lot about exploration. I lived on the Gulf of Mexico. I had my own boat. I spent most of my days exploring mangrove swamps and estuaries and things like that.

Space is like the ocean that I grew up sitting on the edge of, and I feel like, as humanity, we’re on this — like, the surface of the planet, which is like the shore, and we’re ready to now finally go out and see what’s out in the ocean.

My name is Jason Dunn, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on why our future will be made in space.

References:

pbs.org

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-3d-printing-space-allow-us-build-new-worlds/

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3D printed model of NASA’s rover

http://www.popsci.com/now-print-model-nasas-curiosity-rover-your-desk

Curiosity

3D-PRINT A MODEL OF NASA’S CURIOSITY ROVER FOR YOUR DESK

EXPLORE STRANGE NEW WORKSPACES

If you always wanted your very own Curiosity Rover, but couldn’t afford the $2.5 billion to build and launch your own, don’t worry: NASA has your back.

NASA recently released the plans to 3D-print your own mini Mars rover. It may not be able to fire lasers, send back amazing science and pictures, but it will look really cute on your desk.

Curiosity Plans

The British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution have all made 3D models of artifacts from their collections available for printing. The National Institutes of Health is even in on the game, with biosciences-related models available for print.

But If you’re looking for more out-of-this world designs, check out NASA’s growing collection, which includes spacecraft classics like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Voyager probe, along with asteroids like Vesta, and of course, you can always print a wrench. Just like a real astronaut!

popsci.com

by Mary Beth Griggs | August 17, 2015

3D printing with light

http://3dprint.com/89024/calarts-3d-printing-with-light/

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CalArts Student Experiments with 3D Printing Light

Not all 3D printing is meant to last. When CalArts student Aaron Bothman decided to print something for his short film The Red Witch, his thesis project, he wanted it to be less permanent. Having seen the work of Beijing-based artist Ekaggrat Singh Kalsi, who has used a modified 3D printer to ‘print’ in light, he found his inspiration.

Not something that you can pick up with your hands, the product of this technique is something that can be captured on film, which is exactly the medium in which Bothman works.

He and his father worked together on building the printer, a small delta model constructed from a kit but with a particular twist. When assembled, an LED was placed where the hot end would usually have been installed. This allows Bothman to capture the light on film by using a long exposure while the printer runs the model, tracing out the shapes as a 3D light painting.

Ripple_400x400

This isn’t the first 3D printing project that Bothman junior and Bothman senior have worked on together. In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Aaron talked about his experience printing with his father and how it has influenced his work both while at CalArts and after graduation:

“I’m an animator and artist based in Los Angeles. I graduated from the animation program at CalArts a couple months ago, and am currently working as an artist at JibJab, a small studio in LA. I originally learned about 3D printing in middle school from my dad, who teaches mechanical engineering at UCSB, and who helped a lot in thinking through this project. As a stop-motion filmmaker, 3D printing allows me to tackle more ambitious projects on a short production schedule than I might be able to otherwise.”

Wave_400x400

In order to create the light animation, each Maya image to be captured is sent to the printer one frame at a time. Over time, these images create the illusion of movement, just as is done in more traditional stop motion filming. The result is a piece that is built up in layers, requiring the same mode of conceptualization as a 3D printing project but with the option for movement and, of course, no support materials. In fact, no materials at all, something that makes this a particularly appealing way to engage in a 3D printed project if there is no need for the product to be tangible.

Somewhat akin to the old question about a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, the question that could be asked of this technique could be: when a 3D printer creates something that cannot be touched, is it still 3D printing? The creations don’t truly occupy space or at least they only do for a fleeting moment but as they dance before your eyes, I think you may be willing to set that debate aside for a moment. Just think of it this way: with this technique, you could print all you want and never run up a bill for filament and never have to worry about storage space.

And that sounds pretty ideal to me.

Let us know what you think about this concept in the 3D Printing with Light forum thread at 3DPB.com.

3dprint.com

by  | AUGUST 15, 2015

Galactic Civilizations III !

http://3dprint.com/88731/galactic-civ-iii-3d-print/

GC3.logo.tagline

Galactic Civilizations III Shakes Up the Universe for Gamers with 3D Printing & Mega Events

“What do you search for? Do you seek friends and allies, or will you take what is yours?”

“Space isn’t empty…it’s waiting.”

While you are busy exploring new galaxies within the vast universe opened up by Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations III, a new opportunity allows you to explore the world of 3D printing as well with release of update 1.2, which offers a number of new features for gamers.

While 3D printing and gaming are certainly not a new pairing, it is a new addendum to this particular video game which has a focus on serious space travel, navigation, creating galactic territories, and but of course–some major battles with enemy factions.

After completing the challenging task of creating their own ships within the game, users are able to click their way to a new area and site that actually assesses the design of their ship, performs several standards checks, and then it can be 3D printed from the desktop of through the ordering of a 3D print that can be delivered shortly after, straight to the doorstep via Sculpteo.

Untitled

For gamers entrenched in the excitement of Galactic Civilizations III, the 3D printing aspect offers a new journey within the game, and is also accompanied by numerous ‘mega events’ and more. It’s all a pretty big deal for everyone hooked on this game.

“Mega Events,” says Galactic Civilizations III designer Paul Boyer, “are galactic events that shake up the game. You might be heading toward diplomatic victory when suddenly a leader is assassinated. Maybe you’re trying for a conquest victory when the Dread Lords return. Each event is an unexpected incident that will require your skill and strategy to overcome if you hope to be victorious. ”

Mega events, generally random occurrences according to specific conditions, are special and affect the entire galaxy as new challenges occur with, according the game’s site, certain anomalies, new enemies, other planets, and emerging resources.

Galactic Civ3 ships (1)

The update also leads into other new venues like allowing for greater navigation and sharing of maps in Steam workshops. Players make the maps themselves, so sharing them just allows for more fun, learning, and bonding between fellow gamers.

The update, also referred to as a patch, also includes improvements to the AI side, in allowing for better defense, and better building and re-building mechanisms. Visuals are also improved; for example, planets are now able to reflect what their specific class is. Lots more is included, along with a variety of bug fixes. The Mega Events DLC is free for Elite Founders users, and also available at a nominal fee of $4.99 for regular players.

Mixing the two technologies of 3D printing and gaming has always been a no-brainer as makers are often gamers too, and vice versa; no matter the case, both groups have a tendency toward great enthusiasm in trying out new technologies that offer another angle of fun and interest–and especially those that offer a way to bring the game into physical form via figurines and 3D models. 3D printing is, in fact, quite a boon to the marketing angle for industries like gaming, movies, and more, as consumers are thrilled to have mementoes in physical form–and production companies are able to invent and expand on their brands, with the sky being the limit for related consumer offerings.

Are you a player? Discuss your thoughts on the integration of 3D printing with gaming, as well as other exciting aspects of this update in the Galactic Civilizations III forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

3dprint.com

by  | AUGUST 12, 2015

3D printed eggs used to study the art of deception among birds

http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/6777/20150528/scientists-use-3d-printed-eggs-to-study-the-art-of-deception-among-birds.htm

Scientists Use 3D Printed Eggs to Study the Art of Deception among Birds

3D printing has already established itself within the scientific community. It’s been used to produce tools aboard the International Space Station, replicate body parts for surgical procedures, and now it’s found a new niche among biologists studying bird behavior. It turns out, 3D printers produce mighty fine eggs.

Animal behaviorists at Hunter College of the City University of New York are using 3D printers to produce eggs used in experiments that examine nesting behavior among birds. They’re particularly interested in brood parasites – birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, for the behavior of such birds offers insight into the evolutionary arms race between species.

Successful brood parasites are well-adapted to their deceptive practice, laying eggs that resemble those whose nests they target for takeover. But the foster birds have evolved means of detecting such eggs, based on their size, shape, color, and pattern, and will cast them out of the nests when the interlopers are identified.

“Hosts of brood parasites vary widely in how they respond to parasitic eggs, and this raises lots of cool questions about egg mimicry, the visual system of birds, the ability to count, cognitive rules about similarity, and the biomechanics of picking things up,” says Prof. Don Dearborn, chair of the Biology Department at Bates College, a brood parasitism expert who was not involved in the 3D printing study.

Biologists have been studying brood parasitic behavior for decades, but it was always a challenge to produce realistic eggs for use in their experiments. They tried a variety of materials, such as wood and plaster, but the eggs were expensive and time consuming to produce and a challenge to reproduce consistently.

And that’s where the 3D printers come in.

The scientists from Hunter College used a 3D printer to produce model eggs based on those of the Brown-headed Cowbirds, a North American brood parasite. Some eggs were painted beige to match real cowbird eggs; other were painted blue-green to match eggs of the American robin, a typical target of cowbirds. They were able to fill the model eggs with water or gel, so that the eggs retained the weight and properties of real eggs.

Their experiments were a rousing success. The robins accepted 100% of the blue-green eggs while they rejected 79% of the beige eggs. Similar results were achieved using plaster eggs, but the 3D printed eggs are more consistent and easier to produce. And since they are based on digital models, it makes for easy sharing across scientific communities, which improves the reproducibility of experiments.

“For decades, tackling these questions has meant making your own fake eggs — something we all find to be slow, inexact, and frustrating,” says Dearborn. “This study uses 3D printing for a more nuanced and repeatable egg-making process, which in turn will allow more refined experiments on host-parasite coevolution. I’m also hopeful that this method can be extended to making thin-shelled, puncturable eggs, which would overcome another one of the constraints on these kinds of behavioral experiments.”

“3D printing technology is not just in our future – it has already revolutionized medical and basic sciences,” says Mark Hauber, an animal behaviorist at Hunter College and the study’s senior author. “Now it steps out into the world of wild birds, allowing standardized egg rejection experiments to be conducted throughout the world.”

sciencetimes.com

by May 28, 2015 11:29 PM EDT

Habitats for deep space missions

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/science/news/nasa-3d-printing-competition-to-help-design-habitats-for-deep-space-missions-693876

nasa_office_reuters.jpg

Nasa 3D Printing Competition to Help Design Habitats for Deep Space Missions

The US space agency has announced a new $2.25 million (roughly Rs. 14 crores) competition to design and build a 3D-printed habitat for deep space exploration, including Mars.

Along with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (known as America Makes), Nasahas devised the multi-phase 3D Printed Habitat Challenge to advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.

It is part of Nasa’s Centennial Challenges programme.

“The future possibilities for 3D printing are inspiring and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges programme manager.

“This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it,” he added in a Nasa statement.

In the first phase of the competition, participants are to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities 3D printing offers.

The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 (roughly Rs. 31.5 lakhs) will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

The second phase of the competition is divided into two levels.

Level 1 focuses on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone.

Level 2 challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables.

Both levels carry a $1.1 million (roughly Rs. 7 crores) prize each.

Winning concepts and products will help Nasa build the technical expertise to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, such as Mars, to build shelters for the human explorers who follow.

“We believe that 3D printing has the power to fundamentally change the way people approach design and construction for habitats, both on earth and off, and we are excitedly awaiting submissions from all types of competitors,” said Ralph Resnick, founding director of America Makes.

References:

gadgets.ndtv.com

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/science/news/nasa-3d-printing-competition-to-help-design-habitats-for-deep-space-missions-693876

3D printing revolutionising space travel

http://europe.newsweek.com/3d-printers-revolutionise-space-travel-within-two-years-324021

3D Printers to Revolutionise Space Travel Within Two Years

NASA are aiming to introduce 3D printers into spacecraft within two years, allowing astronauts to set up permanent habitats on other planets and even print their own food.

In an interview with Newsweek, NASA’s 3D printing chief Niki Werkheiser says the technology will revolutionise space travel by allowing astronauts to be away from year for years on exploration missions without relying on ground control.

Current costs for space transportation are $10,000 per pound of mass. The development therefore has the potential to save millions of dollars as astronauts can travel light and print essentials on demand whilst in space.

NASA is currently developing its largest rocket yet, the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is due to make its first test flight in 2017 and Werkheiser says her team are working to get a 3D printer on-board.

So far, Werkheiser’s team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama have produced several rocket components and a small wrench with the technology and yesterday the team announced the first successful print of a copper engine part for rockets.

However, they are working on much more exciting projects, including printing parts for a small shelter using substitutes for Martian and lunar sand – the theory being that astronauts could one day use the printers to build themselves habitats on extraterrestrial surfaces.

“The bottom line is being able to print anything you need in orbit. When we live on the ground, we don’t think much about running to Home Depot if something breaks but when you’re in space, even tiny things make a difference,” says Werkheiser.

The space agency is also funding a Texas-based company which is researching printing food, and has already produced prototype results in the form of printed pizza.

Other projects include developing a recycler which breaks down food wrappers into filament which the printer could convert into useful tools like circuit boards and batteries.

Werkheiser is optimistic that commercial applications of the technology means 3D printing in space will not be a thing of the future for long.

3D products are already being touted as offering a solution to homelessness and a means of creating human organs for those in need of transplants.

“The beautiful thing about 3D printing is that you’re going to see a pretty rapid evolution of commercial development. It’s going to happen,” says Werkheiser.

NASA has spent some $3m on the In-Space Manufacturing project which Werkheiser heads up.

The prototype 3D printer used on the International Space Station is the size of a small microwave and prints objects the size of an iPhone 6.

It produces objects by a process known as additive construction, using plastic filament as ink and constructing objects by a layering technique. Instructions are uplinked to the printer from ground control via email.

Werkheiser’s team are working on introducing metal filament to allow the printer to produce sturdier tools.

However, they are still working to overcome certain challenges posed by manufacturing in microgravity – for example, whether the layers of heated plastic form strong bonds when layered on top of each other in the absence of gravity.

Nevertheless, Werkheiser believes the technology will provide the key to allowing astronauts to live in space with the same freedom as on earth.

“This suite of capabilities will enable us to operate and live in space as we do on the ground. You need to get that autonomy in space and this is the secret sauce to getting there.”

europe.newsweek.com

by  |  4/22/15 at 1:45 PM

3D printing being used in disaster relief

http://3dprint.com/56149/3d-printing-disaster-relief/

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Power to the People – 3D Printing Being Used in Disaster Relief

Dara Dotz is a pioneer in 3D printing in troubled and sparse environments. She’s the founder of iLab Haiti, a project which brought 3D printers as part of an aid package to that country following the catastrophic earthquake that devastated that nation in 2010.

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck beneath Port-au-Prince, and aid groups did their best to battle the massive logistical and medical emergency challenges they faced, as the Red Cross estimated that up to 50,000 deaths had occurred, and many more individuals were grievously injured.

Dotz works with Made In Space, a company which has made headlines for building a variety of projects involving 3D printing objects in space, in conjunction with NASA and the International Space Station. She and Eric James, the Director of FieldReady.org, are intent on changing the outcome of communities faced with the problems of recovery from the aftermath of a natural disaster or war. They say that 3D printing promises to revolutionize the way humanitarian-aid supply chains function.

3D printed umbilical cord clamp Haiti

James has nearly two decades of experience in leading disaster relief and development projects, and he’s the author ofManaging Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs.

Field Ready says that the supply chain for disaster relief projects includes agents, middlemen, functionaries, and bureaucrats who insert themselves into the process of delivering goods and services to affected areas, and that those interactions lead to heavy lead times, and require good information systems and well-trained staff. But they add that all those efforts need to be precisely focused on the needs of disaster affected people.

“To date, the focus has been on stockpiling, distribution of cash and improving basic efficiencies, but there has been little done to transform the situation,” James says. “And so it calls for disruption. Instead of relying solely on the supply chain—what if we could make much of what was needed onsite–or at least nearby? If we can do it in space, we can do it here too.”

James says Field Ready combines 3D printing with low-tech innovation such as “hyper-local” manufacturing to provide aid workers and those affected by disasters with tools to help them overcome the weaknesses of the current system.

FieldReady-dotz

Using 3D printers like the UP Miniand MakerBot Replicator, the team collaborates with health practitioners to design solutions such as medical disposables. They printed a prototype prosthetic hand which uses just five parts, as well as a butterfly-needle holder, a prototype screwdriver, prototype pipe clamps, and bottles. James says that while needed items like those would take weeks–and perhaps even months–to make their way to a disaster area, a few 3D printers and spools of filament can make those items available immediately.

Throughout its history, Haiti has suffered developmental and humanitarian challenges, and the earthquake of 2010 brought conditions there to a tipping point. James says nearly every sector of the country is stressed, and that pioneering aspects of in-situ manufacturing means Field Ready is deploying a team of specialists to Port-au-Prince to take on challenges in select health facilities. A grant provided by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund means Field Ready are poised to work with Haiti Communitere, Ti Kay Haiti, and MamaBaby Haiti to make medical disposables and pilot the use of recycling plastic filament.

According to James, others groups like Oxfam and partners Griffith University and My Mini Factory have similar initiatives underway in Kenya, and the Innovation & Planning Agency (IPA) in Jordan does as well. Yet another group,eNable, has been working to print prosthetic limbs using an all-volunteer-based approach.

“Humanitarian relief is still messy, tough and perplexing,” James says. “Aid is provided in the most difficult places on earth, and relief situations are the outcomes of catastrophic failure–usually, a collapse of cooperation and good governance.”

Field Ready says they hope to alleviate the problems by providing more direct, immediate technological intervention.

In 2013 alone, 334 “country-level natural disasters” affected the world, occurring across 109 countries.

Do you know of any other ways 3D printing technology is disrupting the status quo and solving problems around the world? Let us know in the 3D Printing Disaster Relief forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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iLab Haiti

3dprint.com

by  | APRIL 6, 2015

 

3D printed giant star system

Astronomers Whip Up Tangible Models from Supercomputer Simulations of 2 Massive Stars

A 3D-printed model of the Homunculus Nebula is compared to a Hubble Space Telescope image of the object.

Most astronomers rely on flat images to study cosmic objects, but a group of researchers is taking an alternate approach: They’re creating 3D-printed models of a giant star system in order to study its physical characteristics and investigate its mysterious past.

Eta Carinae is the brightest and most massive star system within 10,000 light-years of Earth, and consists of two stars surrounded by luminous shells of gas. A group of scientists looking to better understand how this system formed created complex computer simulations that predicted how the gas should move and change as the stars orbit each other. The science team also created a video detailing their discoveries about Eta Carinae, based on their findings.

But the simulations were difficult to decipher on a computer screen, so the scientists used a 3D printer to bring features of Eta Carinae to life in three dimensions. The researchers plan on making the 3D printing plans available to the public, so anyone with a 3D printer can hold this complex star system in their hands. [10 Ways 3D Printing Can Transform Space Travel]

The same group of astronomers have been studying Eta Carinae with a variety of telescopes in order to probe its past and make predictions about its future. Examining the system with the instruments revealed shells of gas from previous explosions racing away from the most massive star at a million miles an hour.

The new data allowed the researchers to track the cosmic wind coming off the primary star, and reveal expanding claw-like structures. At the same time, the 3-D printer turned up previously unseen fingerlike protrusions in the region where the winds from both stars collide. Together, the variety of methods produced the most comprehensive picture of the binary system to date.

The results were presented by a research team coordinated by Theodore Gull, of NASA Goddard, last month at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

3D printing for science

The two massive stars of  Eta Carinae orbit each other once every 5.5 years and are located about 7,500 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Carina (The Keel).  In their orbit, the stars can be as far apart as the sun and Neptune, or as close as the sun and Mars. Two massive shells of expanding gas called the “homunculus” race away from the central stars, most likely resulting from an explosive event that caused the system to shine almost as brightly as Sirius in the 1840s.

In 2009, Theodore Gull of NASA Goddard began to study Eta Carinae’s two massive stars and the gas lobes extending away from them in both directions with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) aboard the Hubble Space Telescope. He turned up several unusual features in the gas lobes, including one that he compares to a Maryland blue crab.

The “crab,” with its clawlike features, is a remnant from more than 10 years ago, or about twice the time it takes the two stars in Eta Carinae to orbit each other. Observations reveal the diffuse gas bubbles expanding outward with time, racing away from the stars at about one million miles (1.6 million kilometer) per hour.

“The Hubble/STIS is really resolving what I would call fossil winds,” Gull said, terming his work of excavating structures from past cycles as ‘astroarchaeology.’

Eta Carinae's great eruption in the 1840's created the billowing Homunculus Nebula, imaged here by the Hubble Space Telescope. The expanding cloud contains enough material to make at least 10 copies of our sun. Astronomers don’t yet know what caused the e

It was these observations that led Gull down the path of creating a three-dimensional model of Eta Carinae.

First, theorist Thomas Madura, also of Goddard, used the detailed observations of the astronomical hourglass to build a three-dimensional supercomputer simulation of the central interacting binary. But the structures continued to remain elusive. Madura turned to a commercial 3D printer to probe the distant astronomical object.

“As far as we are aware, these are the world’s first 3D prints of a supercomputer simulation of a complex astrophysical system,” he said.

The team created printed models of Eta Carinae at three different times during its orbital cycle — when the stars were farthest apart, when they were closest together and three months after their closest approach. The result led to a surprising scientific find.

“As a result of doing this 3D printing work, we actually discovered these fingerlike protrusions that extend radially out of the spiral collision region,” Madura said.

“These are features that we didn’t really know existed.”

The scientists think that the features, which are too small to resolve with current telescopes, are real features that arrive from physical instabilities that result when gas streaming from one star essentially collides with a wall of gas from the winds of its companion.

The printed 3D models should help the team and other scientists gain a better understanding of what is going on at the heart of Eta Carinae, as well as at its surface. A paper detailing this research was published in the July 8, 2014 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The team intends to place the 3D print files on a website and make them available to the general public. Anyone with access to a 3D printer will be able to hold physical models of Eta Carinae in their hands. These 3D models could be helpful for educational purposes, as well as for the visually impaired, Madura suggested.

“It’s a great way to communicate complicated scientific results to nonexperts and the general public,” Madura said.

A new shape model of Eta Carinae's exterior gas shell reveals protrusions, trenches, holes and irregularities in its molecular hydrogen emission. The scientists who created the 3D computer simulations also created 3D printed models of the luminous star sy

Rushing winds

The brighter of the two stars in Eta Carinae — the primary star — is estimated to have the mass of 90 suns while shining more than 5 million times as brightly. The system shines so brightly that the second star wasn’t found until 2005, and characterizing it has remained a challenge.

“Eta Carinae itself is so luminous that we can’t really clearly see the second star,” said Madura. The research team suspects that the star has about 30 solar masses and emits the light as strong as a million suns.

Although most scientists suspect that the brighter star had the eruption that created the gas lobes, Madura said, “We don’t actually know which star had the eruption.”

The closeness of the two stars means that the stellar winds, full of material from the surface of the stars, stream outward and slam into one another.

The dense wind from the primary star travels at nearly a million miles (1.6 million km) per hour. When it collides with the thinner wind from the secondary, which travels about six times as fast, the rapid deceleration produces a bow shock around the dimmer star. The shockwave creates bright x-ray light that changes over the orbital period of the stars, spiking upward only to fall as the dim companion moves behind the brighter star.

Over several 5.5-year orbital periods, astronomers led by Michael Corcoran, of the Universities Space Research Association in Maryland, used two NASA satellites — the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and the X-ray telescope aboard the Swift satellite — to monitor the changes in brightness of the system over the past 20 years. [The X-Ray Universe Revealed in Photos]

Although the brightness fluctuations are similar in each cycle, they correspond to material flowing off the star and so are not identical. In 2009, the dip in brightness recovered faster than it had in previous cycles. The most recent cycle offered another surprise — in July 2014, the X-ray signal was brighter than previous observations, according to Corcoran. Despite the jump, the drop back to the lowest point remained consistent with previous observations.

The changes are important because they reveal how much material streams away from the pair.

“For stars, mass determines their destiny, but for massive stars, mass loss determines their destiny,” Corcoran said.

“By looking at these X-ray variations, we can tell something very important about how these stars are changing.”

In addition to studying Eta Carinae in the X-ray, Mairan Teodoro of NASA Goddard and a group of professional and amateur astronomers studied the system in a single wavelength of blue light emitted by helium atoms that have lost an electron. Light from the atoms tracks the conditions of the wind from the primary star.

But these emissions can be very faint, and difficult to cull from the rest of the light waves emitted by the star. In 2009, Teodoro led the first international effort to track the helium signature across the southern hemisphere, collecting contributions from at least five observatories. In 2014, the team collected even more observations. Together, the data included over 400 observations by amateur astronomers. Studying the wide variety of data collected, the team was able to conclude that there were no significant changes in the brightness of Eta Carinae in the past 5.5 years.

The steadiness of the wind from the secondary star is somewhat surprising, given that the larger, brighter primary is thought to be more stable.

The deeper insights into what is going on around the visible edges of the binary stars may help put to rest concerns that the two may suffer a violent death in the near future. Like most massive stars, the pair found in Eta Carinae will end their lives in a supernova blowout. The timing is based on how quickly they lose their matter before they reach the point where they are no longer stable.

“What determines the eventual state of the star is what’s going on deep in the core,” Corcoran said. The mass loss the team has observed takes place at the surface, not in the interior. However, that surface activity should be indicative of what is happening in the heart of the stars, according to Corcoran.

At the moment, the surface activity seems rather steady on both stars.

“We don’t really expect [either star] to be a supernova,” Gull said. “However, we can always be fooled.”

SPACE.COM
by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com Contributor   |   February 24, 2015 01:30pm ET

First zero-gravity 3D printer!

Europe is set to send its first 3D printer into the final frontier this year to experiment with zero-gravity manufacturing on long space voyages.

The European Space Agency plans to deliver its new Portable On-Board 3D Printer (POP3D for short) to the International Space Station by the end of June, making it the second3D printer in space. The diminutive 3D printer is a cube that measures just under 10 inches (25 centimeters) per side and requires a small amount of power to operate.

“The POP3D Portable On-Board Printer is a small 3D printer that requires very limited power and crew involvement to operate,” said Luca Enrietti of Altran, prime contractor for the compact printer, in an ESA statement. [10 Ways 3D Printing Will Transform Space Travel]

In order to ensure the printer does not affect the space crew’s environment, Altran designed the machine to use a heat-based printing method and a harmless, biodegradable plastic.

The printer will be tested by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA as part of her Futura mission on the International Space Station. She is one of six crewmembers currently living on the orbiting lab.

Europe’s Pop3D printer won’t be the first of additive manufacturing tool to reach space.

Last September, the California-based company Made In Space sent a 3D printer to the space station as part of a NASA experiment. That machine has already printed parts for itself and printed a working ratchet tool from a design beamed into space from Earth.

Made In Space’s 3D-printed objects, as well as anything POP3D produces, will eventually be returned to Earth and compared with identical items made with 3D printers on the ground. The comparison should help scientists determine whether 3D printed objects made in space work as well as they do on Earth.

Altran Portable On-Board 3D Printer

If the innovative approach to space manufacturing works, its implications could be vast for future space exploration, ESA and NASA scientists have said. The concept for Pop3D was unveiled last October during a conference attended by 350 3D printing experts from across Europe

The technology could allow astronauts to print delicate tools in space that could not otherwise survive the stresses of launching into space, Altran representatives explained.It could also reduce the need to pack spare parts on resupply missions, as well as lower total number of parts needed both on a spacecraft or the space station, therefore lowering the overall cost of spaceflight.

“In the case of a complex injector of a rocket engine, we are able to take the total number of parts needed from around 250 down to one or two,” one space 3D-printing advocate Steffen Beyer, head of Materials and Process Technology at Airbus Defence and Space, said in the ESA statement. “That represents a revolution in design and manufacturing.”

SPACE.COM
by Kasandra Brabaw, Space.com Contributor   |   January 30, 2015 11:02am ET