The world’s first metal 3D printer for space is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will be installed in ESA’s Columbus module. Its mission is to demonstrate the validity of the technology in orbit and pave the way for future use on Mars and the Moon.
Developed by Airbus, the 180kg printer will be used to repair or manufacture tools, mounting interfaces, and mechanical parts. It can print parts with a volume of nine centimetres high and five centimetres wide, with the process lasting about 40 hours.
Once installed at the ISS, the 3D printer will manufacture four metal samples that will be sent back to Earth for analysis. The ground-based engineering model of the printer will also produce the same specimens.
The four test prints. Credit: Airbus Space and Defence SAS
“In order to evaluate the effects of microgravity, ESA and Danish Technical University will perform mechanical strength and bending tests and microstructural analysis on the parts made in space and compare them to the other specimens,” Sébastien Girault, metal 3D-printer system engineer at Airbus, explained.
In-space manufacturing: the new frontier
Source : The Next Web