Challenges Coming for 3D Printing In Space
Fabbaloo posted on December 05, 2014 |
Now that NASA has a 3DPrinter aboard the ISS, what issues might the technology face over the long te...

NASA, 3D printing, space, technical problemsNASA has launched an experimental 3D printer into orbit, but what challenges lay ahead? We believe there could be significant challenges to overcome.

We’ve now seen the first 3D plastic prints made in space, and it’s expected NASA will continue testing in a methodical way, gradually increasing the complexity of 3D printing scenarios to eventually reach “operational” capability. At this point Astronauts would be able to print transmitted objects on demand. 

That will indeed by useful, but what next? The question will be 3D printed metal objects, which has become an increasingly popular approach here on the Earth. 

While very successful on the ground, we foresee serious obstacles in replicating the success of orbital plastic printing  with metal gear. Here’s our concerns:

Contamination: Most metal 3D printing processes involve use of fine-grained metal powders. The finer, the better, to produce good surface finishes. But wait - would you want superfine metal powders floating around your weightless space station? 

Such loose powder could affect delicate electronics, spoil onboard experiments, create friction on moving surfaces and more. 

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