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3D Printer in Space? What’s Next!

NASA 3D Printer

 

NASA-3D

Big news this past month for the future of NASA’s space missions: The first 3-D printer rocket engine injector has been approved as part of a major evaluation.

NASA-3D-printer

Why is this a monumental milestone? Some may recall the 1970 Apollo 13 space mission to the moon, in which the crew, under an unfortunate series of events, was forced to create a makeshift device that could join a cube-shaped command module canister to the lunar module’s cylindrical canister-sockets.

With a 3-D printer in space, astronauts in future missions will not have to jerry-rig a device with duct tape, a flight manual, a plastic bag, or a towel like the Apollo 13 crew did. In the future, the use of a 3-D printer in space could grant astronauts the ability to print mission critical parts. Not only is this potentially a crucial part of space survival, but it cuts cost by 70% by reducing the time it takes to build rocket engine injectors.

It seems that 3-D printing and prototyping have evolved from visual reference tools, to now very usable, potentially life-saving tools. In another case, earlier this year, The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported a new experimental project in which 3,000 vehicles had Vehicle Awareness Devices installed to warn drivers of others’ speeds in the case of a potential accident. Each vehicle has four cameras, which are mounted by 3-D prototypes made of ABS plastic. The experimental project could save a number of lives each year if successful.

In a past blog post, we discussed a custom-made, 3-D printed arm cast that is designed to help in the recovery of broken bones. If 3-D printing can be applied to people’s health, vehicles, and even space travel, one can only imagine… what will the future of 3-D prints offer us?

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