NASA to send 3-D printer to space station to churn out parts


NASA is planning to send a 3-D printer into space and use it as a mini factory to churn out tools and instruments, sparing astronauts the hassle of lugging spare parts on each mission, according to a report.

The printer is slated to go into space in the fall of 2014 on a supply mission, Associated Press said.

NASA engineers envision a time when 3-D printers can print virtually any part that is needed and avert potential catastrophes in outer space.


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“Any time we realize we can 3-D print something in space, it’s like Christmas,” Andrew Filo, a consultant with NASA on the printing project, told AP. “You can get rid of concepts like rationing, scarce or irreplaceable.”

Certain industries, such as auto manufacturing, have used 3-D printers for some time, and the devices are creeping into the consumer market as well. They “print” three-dimensional objects by melting plastic, metal or other materials and depositing the liquid, layer by tiny layer, according to a three-dimensional, computer-generated design of a necklace, say, or a fork.

In tests, NASA engineers have used 3-D printers to create satellites that can transmit information to Earth and also parts that can survive the harsh environment of outer space, the report said.

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Theoretically, such printers can help prevent situations such as the Apollo 13 incident in 1970, when astronauts had to make their own carbon dioxide filter with ingenuity and duct tape.



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