3D printing at locations that are hard to reach

A 3D printer can be used at locations that are hard to reach, like for example in space. The printer can be used to make tools and spare parts. Or to print new parts for testing purposes. The main advantages are that there is no lead-time and there are no high shipping costs. Beneath you can find some examples to clarify.

3D Printers in Space

Imagine a 3D printer in the International Space Station. If a part fails over there, it can easily be printed and replaced. This is cheaper than ship up multiple spare parts, the extra weight will result in an extra fuel cost. With the 3D printer they won’t have an overstock on parts. With a stock on parts you will have the risk that certain parts will not fail. Still, you will have the weight of these parts. Having only a 3D printer on board will be a solution to this problem. On August 2014 NASA will do some research on this.



Other examples I’m thinking of:

  • Polar Research Station
  • Submarine
  • Large ships
  • Remote military outpost

6 thoughts on “3D printing at locations that are hard to reach

  1. Hi,

    This would be indeed an opportunity to reduce extra cargo for space missions. Do you have any idea if some of these examples are alreay implemented or projects that propose such a solution?

    • The only example I found is that NASA will test it in space. For the other examples I couldn’t find any information. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to give that information for military applications.

  2. Hello,

    I was just wondering, is it even possible to print in space? I mean, due to lack of gravity, the content of the cartridge would not be “pushed down” as it is on earth. So this might be a little bit tricky. However, I know that NASA has developed a ball point that can write in space without gravity, so a solution should certainly be possible! But perhaps it’s not as easy as you depict it here. Or if the solution for this lack of gravity takes too much space, it wouldn’t be a good solution after all! I’m very curious to follow up on the specific topic! The other examples you mentioned are good ones though, and I think there a printer would really be a great asset, or at least for emergency situations (if better solutions are possible but not immediately implementable!)

    • NASA has already tested a 3D printer in a parabolic flight, so they already have a solution. But probably this will be a printer for plastics. I think an FDM type. So there are no problems with gravity, because the new layer will stick directly on the layer beneath. On my opinion is that this will be the first step in printing in space. Afterwards they will do tests on printing metals. I’m curious how they will solve the gravity problem.

  3. That will be cool. But is it possible to print something metal or very strong? I don’t know about it, but it seems to work only on polymers. If the printer can not use strong material as ingredient, is it still useful to a spacecraft?

    • Hi

      It is certainly possible to print metals, for example: titanium, aluminum, stainless steal,…
      But i think that NASA will start with plastics and later find a solution to print metals in space.

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