November 17, 2014 Brad Kohlenberg

Zero-G 3D Printer, Unpacked and Installed

Made In Space, Inc. and NASA have completed the next milestone in the 3D Printing in Zero-Gravity Experiment. This morning, astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore unpacked the 3D printer from its launch packaging and installed it inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

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The 3D printer, designed and built by Made In Space for NASA, was launched on September 21st, 2014 on the SpaceX 4 resupply mission to the ISS. Earlier this morning, astronaut Wilmore proceeded to retrieve the 3D printer experiment from its storage location and installed it inside the MSG. With the aid of the Made In Space and NASA ground support teams, Wilmore was able to power on and complete critical system checks to ensure that the hardware and software was in operating condition.

“This is a very exciting day for me and the rest of the team. We had to conquer many technical challenges to get the 3D printer to this stage,” said Mike Snyder as he exited the MIS Ground Control. The goal of the 3D Printing in Zero-G technology demonstration is an experiment to explore the use of additive manufacturing technology as a reliable platform for sustained in-space manufacturing. The first phase of printing will include, among other things, a series of engineering test coupons which will be returned to Earth for analysis and compared to control samples which were made with the same 3D printer while it was at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, prior to launch.

When asked about the significance of the project, Mike Snyder commented, “This experiment has been an advantageous first stepping stone to the future ability to manufacture a large portion of materials and equipment in space that has been traditionally launched from Earth surface, which will completely change our methods of exploration.”

The Made In Space team is gratified to see the 3D printer installed and are eager to begin experimenting with off-world additive manufacturing. The science collected from this printer will directly feed into the Made In Space commercial printer flying up in 2015, which will enable a fast and cost-effective way for people to get hardware to space.

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