Barry Wilmore, International Space Station (ISS) Commander, recently needed a wrench that they didn’t have at hand on-board the ISS…so NASA emailed him one. For the first time ever, an object has been designed on Earth and manufactured in space. In earlier years if a situation arose similar to this then the people on the ISS would have to wait for the next resupply mission which could take months! “Made in Space”, a California company designed a micro gravity printer that sits aboard the ISS. Now astronauts can simply print the desired tool they need.
Now whenever something is needed on the ISS, they can now send the requirements to Made in Space, who then mocks up the part in CAD software before sending the data back to be printed in space. However, this is not the first 3D printed part in space, back in November the printer printed a spare part for itself. This means that they can take less tools with them when they travel to the ISS. 3D printing filament is much lighter than tools! In total, 21 objects have been 3D printed in space, all of which have been brought back to Earth for examination and testing. This can only help to improve the printing process in micro gravity. Now only imagine if we can 3D print a spacecraft…Hey…..It could happen!