MRO Magazine

Feature

3D printer to build spare parts in space

Moffett Field, CA – NASA is preparing to launch a 3D printer into space in 2014, a toaster-sized game changer that greatly reduces the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need.


Moffett Field, CA – NASA is preparing to launch a 3D printer into space in 2014, a toaster-sized game changer that greatly reduces the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need.

The printers would serve as a flying factory of infinite designs, creating objects by extruding layer upon layer of plastic from long strands coiled around large spools. 

In NASA labs, engineers are 3D-printing replacement parts and rocket pieces that can survive extreme temperatures.

“Any time we realize we can 3D-print something in space, it’s like Christmas,” said inventor Andrew Filo, who is consulting with NASA on the project. “You can get rid of concepts like rationing, scarce or irreplaceable.”

“If you want to be adaptable, you have to be able to design and manufacture on the fly, and that’s where 3D printing in space comes in,” said Dave Korsmeyer, director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field.

“Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made in Space. “Rather than hoping that the necessary parts and tools are on the station already, what if the parts could be 3D printed when they needed them?” The Associated Press