Last month, we reported on Made in Space’s 3D printer, designed specifically for the weightless environment of space.
Since that last report, Made In Space has made tremendous progress towards certifying that their printer will, in fact, work in space. In a recent series of “zero-g” flight tests, the project’s printer was tested in a simulated weightless environment.
The primary difficulty of 3D printing in space is, of course, the severe shortage of gravity. Microgravity environments like the International Space Station can alter things like layer adhesion, print resolution, and part strength, making a print useless.
To ensure this won’t happen to their parts, the Made In Space team tested their machine aboard a modified Boeing 727 aircraft. Over the course of four flights and thirty-two parabolic dives, the Made In Space team confirmed that their printer could create reliable prints even while hurtling toward the ground in freefall..
According to Douglas Maclise, Technology Manager of Flight Opportunities Program, “There’s an awful lot of excitement about this technology. NASA benefits by extending low-cost opportunities through the Flight Opportunities Program to businesses like Made in Space. We’re looking at them as the poster child for the game-changing possibilities of 3D printing”.
With these test behind them Made In Space will begin environmental testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Buoyed by their recent success Mike Chen, Made In Space’s Strategic Officer added, "Today, we demonstrated that our 3D printers can print in microgravity. Next year, we will demonstrate that they can print on the International Space Station."
Image Courtesy of Made in Space