Scroll Top

NASA creates first 3D print out in Space

Taking the first step inNASA what NASA hopes will become a key part of future long-term space journeys, Engineers have created the first 3D printed object in space.

Using a 3D printer that was installed on the International Space Station on November 17, NASA built a faceplate for the printer itself.

The faceplate is made of plastic which gives engineers hope that 3D printers can one day be used to build everything from spare parts to tools and even food on board the space station, as well as on deep space flights to asteroids and Mars.

“This first print is the initial step toward providing an on-demand machine shop capability away from Earth, “Niki Werkheiser, project manager for the International Space Station 3-D Printer project, said in a statement. “The space station is the only laboratory where we can fully test this technology in space.”

After doing an initial calibration early last week, on Monday engineers on the ground sent commands to the printer to make its first object. On Tuesday, the part was complete and was removed from the machine for inspection.

Once the first printing was completed, the space agency’s ground team sent commands to fine-tune the printer’s alignment. As of Tuesday, printing a second

Werkheiser said. “As we print more parts, we’ll be able to learn whether some of the effects we are seeing are caused by microgravity or just part of the normal fine-tuning process for printing. When we get the parts back on Earth, we’ll be able to do a more detailed analysis to find out how they compare to parts printed on Earth.”

Most of the work testing out the 3D printer is being done from the ground to limit the amount of time astronauts working on the space station need to spend on it, according to NASA. Ground engineers monitor the manufacturing process via downloaded images and videos.

As NASA ventures further into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending humans to Mars, we’ll need transformative technology to reduce cargo weight and volume, Bolden said last year. “In the future, perhaps astronauts will be able to print the tools and components they need in space.”