When something breaks down in space, it is not always easy to replace. There’s no home supply store around the corner and the unique nature of space work makes finding parts a challenge. But what if astronauts could just print out the broken parts that they need and get right back to work? Until now, gravity has made 3D printing difficult in space, but Made in Space just launched the first 3D printer into orbit!
Instead of using a filament that stacks one layer onto another to create an object, the Made in Space printer uses a liquid surface-tension to hold the filament together as it prints. For now, the printer will be launching into space for a test period and, if it works out, it could spell the future for in-orbit manufacturing.
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In the future, the printer could help astronauts create the things they need without having to wait for a rocket from Earth to deliver it. Ironically, the printer was set to launch on Saturday but weather delayed the launch until last night. As Jason Dunn from Made in Space tweeted, it was “a good reminder of why we can not rely on launch from earth to get hardware to space.”
Images via Made in Space