3D printers are being heralded as the new wave innovation. These printers offer the ability to create all sorts of items, and plans for objects can be pre-programmed or downloaded from the internet.
NASA has recently taken interest in these printers to be used on future space missions. The potential for a 3D printer in space is tremendous. The amount of planning that goes into each mission must include spare parts, extra tools and numerous possibilities of equipment breaking.
A 3D printer could provide solutions by creating machine parts and even specialized tools. These printers could be a great additional tool in case of emergency or for research and development while in space.
Before any items goes into space, they must be thoroughly tested. This includes cleanroom testing, as well as a trip aboard the “vomit comet”, which is a simulated low gravity environment. In addition to this testing, the 3D printer will need to be able to withstand variances in air pressure, low gravity and variable air pressures.
3D printing could be a big win for NASA and could eventually lead to larger scale production of objects in space.