ISS is getting its first 3D metal printer to create parts for missions to the Moon and Mars

Metallic 3D printing is coming to house because of a brand new customized metallic 3D printer designed by Airbus for the European Area Company (ESA) that’s now aboard the Worldwide Area Station. To not be confused with the polymer-based 3D printers used on the ISS utilizing plastic supplies, that is the actual deal – “metallic being melted utilizing a laser.”

The first metal 3D printer for space, image credit: Airbus.

The primary metallic 3D printer for house, picture credit score: Airbus.


The ESA’s metallic 3D printer was despatched to the ISS aboard the Cygnus NG-20 resupply mission and may very well be a game-changer for each the Worldwide Area Station and house exploration as we all know it. With the power to 3D print metallic, spare components and even model new ones may very well be successfully ‘manufactured’ in orbit with out counting on rockets and resupply missions.

3D metallic printing could be very completely different from utilizing plastic, with the stainless-steel wire of this tradition printer heated as much as a 1,400 levels Celsius melting level in comparison with 200 levels Celsius for plastic wire.

“Metallic 3D printing represents a better technical problem, involving a lot increased temperatures and metallic being melted utilizing a laser,” ESA technical officer Rob Postema stated. “With this, the security of the crew and the Station itself must be ensured – whereas upkeep potentialities are additionally very restricted. If profitable although, the energy, conductivity and rigidity of metallic would take the potential of in-space 3D printing to new heights.”

One of the first metal 3D specimens to be printed on board the ISS, image credit: ESA

One of many first metallic 3D specimens to be printed on board the ISS, picture credit score: ESA

The printer will function in a completely sealed field designed to stop extra warmth or fumes from reaching the crew of the ISS. As soon as fired up, the printer’s inside oxygen is vented into house after which changed by nitrogen, as scorching stainless-steel would oxidize if uncovered to oxygen. As a take a look at, the printer will start by creating “4 fascinating shapes,” which is able to take two to 4 weeks to print. The rationale for the prolonged period comes all the way down to noise laws on the ISS, with the printer described by the ESA as “comparatively noisy.”

The primary prints will likely be packaged and despatched again to Earth for evaluation.

“This know-how demonstration, showcasing the processing of metallic supplies in microgravity, paves the way in which for future endeavors to fabricate infrastructure past the confines of Earth,” Thomas Rohr, ESA Supplies and Processes Part, stated.

“It is a leap for innovation in house exploration,” Patrick Crescence, venture supervisor at Airbus, provides. “It paves the way in which for manufacturing extra complicated metallic buildings in house. That may be a key asset for securing exploration of the Moon and Mars.”


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