Now, a firm is looking to take 3D printing into space, literally. Made In Space has created a Zero-G 3D printer that will launch to the International Space Station tomorrow.
Made In Space was founded in 2010 and has been working towards certification for its Zero-G 3D printer. The company says that the Zero-G is the first 3D printer designed to operate in zero gravity and that it has carried out over 30,000 hours of testing, including more than 400 microgravity parabola flights aboard a modified Boeing 727.
The Zero-G is an extrusion printer that builds up layers of hot liquefied acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic to create an object. A number of factors had to be taken in consideration for designing it to work in a zero-gravity environment. Components that might previously have been even partly held in place by gravity had to be redesigned, thermal processes had to be recalculated and the layering process had to be reconsidered. In addition, the printer had to be built with "extreme safety precautions" in mind.