3-D printer will be used to make repair parts and tools

NASA has announced that it intends to send a 3-D printer to the International Space Station in 2014. NASA says that astronauts living aboard the ISS would use the 3-D printer to make spare parts and tools in zero gravity. Once the printer arrives at the ISS, it will mark the first time a 3-D printer has been used in space.

"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.

NASA and other ISS partner nations hope that using a 3-D printer on the space station could help reduce the costs for future missions. The printer NASA sends to the ISS won't be your typical off-the-shelf 3-D printer. It will be beefed up to withstand the stresses of liftoff and to operate in a weightless environment.

"Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station," said Aaron Kemmer, Made in Space CEO. "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?"

It's unclear exactly what sort of material NASA will use in the printer; 3-D printers typically use a polymer material, but there are 3-D printers able to use titanium and nickel-chromium powers to build stronger components.
Back in July, NASA successfully tested 3-D printed rocket engine components.

Source: BBC

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