With 3D printing becoming the latest breakthrough in technology, industries are making the most out of it. From manufacturing, 3D printing is now integrated in other industries like automobile and even in space explorations. NASA is even conducting researches in using 3D printers in space. Many people might think this is too futuristic, but it might come very soon.
3D printers will definitely change how man travels in space. It might even hold the key to space travel. Here are the 10 ways it transforms space exploration as per the European Space Agency:
- Digitalto the real world. Designs that are created through the computer can now be easily created in real life. Translating designs to 3D is easier with printing, than with manually carving them out on blocks. Designers can just start processing their artworks digitally and let the printer produce the designs for them. Different materials can also be used.
- Lower overhead. Having a 3D printer on board may mean lesser volume for the spaceship. Suppliers need not create thousands of spare parts, just in case the ship needs one. A single printer can replace everything the ship may need. This can lessen the expenses of suppliers.
- Testing items. Easy reproduction of items needed in space is one of the benefits of 3D printing. ESA’s material engineers have confidence in the technology. In 2009, a titanium 3D printed version of the stainless water on-off valve was flown on the Columbus module. The 3D printed valve reduced the material’s mass and removed its weak point.
- Impossible made possible. 3D printers can manufacture items that are hard to build. Lattices, for example, have detailed internal geometry with a hollow interior. Printing titanium lattice balls is now easier with the technology.
- Lighter lattices. Honeycombed lattices in titanium balls can lessen the cost and mass of nozzles and rocket chambers. This can also improve its resilience to heat, which is important for engines. 3D printed lattices are more durable as propellant management devices.
- New design rules. 3D printing has turned around the rules in designing. Designers need not to worry about removing surplus items in order to reveal the final output. It allows many people to veer away from traditional designing to the new rules.
- Simple modelmaking. ESA engineers working in the design facility can easily create scale models of spaceships with a 3D printer. They use the kind of plastics in Lego. 3D printed metallic parts have also been created in order to repair equipment at the ESTEC Test Centre.
- Testing other possibilities. 3D printing can reduce the mass of items, like antenna support and radio frequency filter, used in space exploration while making them better. The technology can also easily build complex items.
- Baby steps to space. Regular use of the 3D printer in space is still a thing for the future. However, steps have been taken to be able to reach this goal. A couple of 3D printed parts have made it to the orbit. NASA is planning to fly a 3D printer to the station.
- Future in space. The technology will radically change how space travel is done today. Astronauts can fix and replace broken parts in the space station using the 3D printer. Manned missions can be carrying a printer to maintain complete functionality even during long flights. The satellites may soon be self-printing subsystems.