3D printing in space

04/20/13 23:29:00    

By Michael Mealling

3d printing is one of the NASA App Challenge projects but sadly its only printing models of spacecraft. While 3D printing in space has been in the press lately because of Sinterhab and DSI's Microgravity Foundry, there is still much technology that needs to be developed. But it can be done in steps.

But we can break it into requirements and steps that we can build and test. In some cases the tests can be done terrestrially. Others will need time on ISS or on a suborbital vehicle. Here are some thoughts:

1) Using nickel/iron meteorites create a base feed stock.

2) Separate the right materials from the raw stock

3) Refine that material into a form needed for deposition

4) Evaluate different metal deposition: beam welding, vapor deposition, ion implantation, etc. Here are, some, examples.

5) Build a full lifecycle example here

6) Build a self-contained full lifecycle test for the ISS using NanoRacks' External Platform program.

By that point someone should have identified a few candidate asteroids to try larger projects on.

If you know of relevant research for this let me know and I'll update this message to list them. Maybe even turn it into a wiki somewhere.

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