Recently in the 3-D Printing Category


NASA is seeking proposals for development of a first-generation, in-space, multi-material fabrication laboratory, or FabLab, for space missions.

Bricks have been 3D printed out of simulated moondust using concentrated sunlight - proving in principle that future lunar colonists could one day use the same approach to build settlements on the Moon.

When humans begin to colonize the moon and Mars, they will need to be able to make everything from small tools to large buildings using the limited surrounding resources.

NASA is offering $1.1 million in prize money in Phase 2 of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge for new ways to build houses where future space explorers can live and work.

Lowe's Innovation Labs, the disruptive innovation hub of Lowe's Companies, Inc., has partnered with aerospace company Made in Space, to become the first to launch a commercial 3D printer to space.

The world's first spacecraft thruster with a platinum combustion chamber and nozzle made by 3D printing has passed its baptism of fire with a series of firings lasting more than an hour and 618 ignitions.

3D Printed Lunar Building Block

This building block of a future Moon base, 3D-printed from simulated lunar material, is now on show at the Hypervital exhibition, part of the International Design Biennale in Saint-Etienne, France.

The International Space Station's 3-D printer has manufactured the first 3-D printed object in space, paving the way to future long-term space expeditions.

Europe's very first 3D printer in space is scheduled for installation aboard the ISS next year.

3-D Printing a Moonbase

Could astronauts one day be printing rather than building a base on the Moon? In 2013 ESA, working with industrial partners, proved that 3D printing using lunar material was feasible in principle.

NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

After passing the last NASA test, Made In Space will see its 3D printer launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in August by SpaceX as part of NASA's 4th Commercial Resupply mission (CRS-4).

Spinal Ultrasound Scans: Flight Engineer (FE)-3 Hopkins supporting as the operator conducted Flight Day 150 cervical and lumbosacral ultrasound scans of FE-5 Parmitano with remote guidance from the ground team.

3-D Metal Printing Revolution in Space

A metal 3D-printing revolution is entering space. AMAZE is a recently announced project that aims to perfect the printing of space-quality metal components on Earth and beyond within five years.

Made in Space's customized 3D printer, the first off-Earth manufacturing device scheduled for arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014, successfully completed a crucial milestone towards flight certification at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala.

What can survive blazing temperatures of almost 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting? What did not break apart at extreme pressures? What is made by a new process that forms a complex part in just one piece? What takes less than three weeks to go from manufacturing to testing? What can reduce the costs of expensive rocket parts by 60 percent or more?

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne of West Palm Beach, Fla., recently finished testing a rocket engine injector made through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

The first 3D printer bound for space passed a series of critical microgravity tests at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Made in Space, the space manufacturing company, conducted examinations of their proprietary 3D printer technology during four microgravity flights lasting two hours each, simulating conditions found on the ISS.

The first rule of DIY: know where your tools are. Astronauts on the International Space Station are about to have that task made much simpler, with a purpose-designed 3D-printed toolbox due for launch today on ESA's latest ATV resupply spacecraft.

3-D Manufacturing in Space

In preparation for a future where parts and tools can be printed on demand in space, NASA and Made in Space Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., have joined to launch equipment for the first 3-D microgravity printing experiment to the International Space Station.

Driven by design software, 3-D printers churn out made-to-order objects on a desktop. A myriad of materials from polymers to metal alloys enable virtually anyone to manufacture almost anything they can imagine, including glow-in-the-dark pens, Lego-like building blocks, cogs and gears, electrical circuits and jewelry. Advanced applications produce living tissue for replacement organs in the body, intricate engine designs and parts for spacecraft during deep space missions.

Engineers at NASA Ames Research Center have begun experimenting with 3D printers for some spacecraft design. CNET's Sumi Das visits one of its newly open workshops -- filled with state of the art equipment.

"The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, which is essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine's turbo pumps." More

San Francisco - (March 8, 2013) - Today DIYROCKETS and Sunglass are announcing a partnership to launch the world's first open source competition to create 3D printed rocket engines through collaborative design.

The competition opens for registration at South By Southwest (SXSW) on March 9, and challenges makers, designers and space entrepreneurs to create open source rocket engines that will serve the growing market for small payload delivery into low earth orbit and ultimately, disrupt the space transportation industry.

Although several companies have recently made strides in showcasing the power of the private sector in space exploration, DIYROCKETS is taking this a step further by creating the first of many competitions that encourages the fusion of creativity, technology and collaboration by people across the globe. Utilizing Sunglass's cloud-based platform to visualize, collaborate, manage versions and exchange feedback on each design with team members and the public from anywhere on the globe, the contest aims to dramatically drive down design costs, while creating innovative technology for all types of space hardware and parts, ranging from space propulsion to space medical sensors. Teams will have the freedom to work in a 3D design environment of their choice such as SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, Rhino or CATIA, while syncing their project to the Sunglass cloud.

Building a Lunar Base with 3D Printing

"Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil. "Terrestrial 3D printing technology has produced entire structures," said Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA. "Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat." Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing 'catenary' dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts. A hollow closed-cell structure - reminiscent of bird bones - provides a good combination of strength and weight." More

"Imagine landing on the moon or Mars, putting rocks through a 3-D printer and making something useful - like a needed wrench or replacement part. "It sounds like science fiction, but now it's really possible," says Amit Bandyopadhyay, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University."

NASA GRC Solicitation: Curiosity Rover Scale Models

"NASA/GRC has a requirement for two (2) high quality 1/10th scale models and one (1) 1/5th scale model of the Curiosity Rover. NASA/GRC intends to purchase the items from Scale Model Company on a sole source basis due to the proprietary restrictions on drawings."

Keith's note: "Proprietary restrictions on drawings"? Gee, I wonder were this company got the data for the drawings of Curiosity in the first place? (Likely) answer: one way or another it all comes from NASA - even if the company did additional work on the drawings for their own uses. Too bad NASA has to spend lots of money on these models. There is little, if any, incentive at NASA to find cheaper ways to procure things like this since the expensive way is the way things have always been done. I wonder how much they are paying for these models? If I ask NASA PAO what the models cost they will almost certainly refuse to tell me and will make me file a FOIA request.

More or less every NASA center has 3-D printers these days and is experimenting with 3-D printing of satellite and rocket engine components. Why not take NASA's Curiosity drawings and make them open source? There's a large, growing DIY / "Maker" community who'd just love to do this for free. Then anyone (including NASA) can just print the models out - at a variety of scales - in a variety of materials - on an as-needed basis. Not only would this provide a huge audience with a chance to get a more intimate understanding of how these rovers work, it would also end up costing less money to make these models that NASA just loves to spend money on.

That said, I am sure the ITAR enforcers will find reasons why you can't release things like this - even if the schematics simply show the outside of components - not their internal design. Yet nothing stops a company like Scaled Model Company from producing a model on their own - one of sufficient fidelity that NASA itself wants to buy it.

- 3D Printed CubeSat, Fabbaloo
- PrintSat - An Amateur Radio 3D Printer CubeSat, Southgate
- 3D Printing of cubesat structure, YouTube
- NASA 3D prints rocket parts -- with steel, not plastic, ExtremeTech

A New Makerbot Replicator

MakerBot(R) Industries introduces the MakerBot(R) Replicator(TM) 2 Desktop 3D Printer, the company's easiest, fastest, and most affordable tool yet for making professional-quality models. Designed for the desktop of an engineer, researcher, creative professional, or anyone who loves to make things, the MakerBot Replicator 2 features 100-micron layer resolution, setting a new standard in professional looking models and true-to-life replicas. In addition, the MakerBot Replicator 2 enables users to make big objects, up to 410 cubic inches in volume (11.2" L x 6.0" W x 6.1" H).

"Interns at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are an extraordinary group. Their eyes brighten at the mention of an informative lecture, they eagerly ask questions as you pass by in the hallways, and they talk about their projects with unbounded enthusiasm. Could these high school and college students be the secret to infusing our workforce with renewed passion? Matthew Showalter, associate branch head in the Advanced Manufacturing Branch (AMB), at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Md., believes so. For several years he has utilized the unique talent and fresh thinking of interns from around the country to collaborate on a project he calls the Innovation Lab. When complete, the Innovation Lab will support Goddard research and development at low or no cost, while simultaneously recruiting the next generation of engineers and scientists for the center's workforce." More.

Printable Robots

NSF Announces New Expeditions in Computing Awards

"The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) today announced four new Expeditions in Computing awards. Each award will provide $10 million in funding over five years, representing the single largest investments in computer science research NSF makes. "Computer science research drives advances in science, engineering and education with significant positive impact on the economy, the achievement of national priorities and improvements in quality of life. The U.S. government has an essential role to play in ensuring that investments in this field are sustained over the long-term," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "With these Expeditions awards, NSF continues its tradition of investing in ambitious, bold ideas. Our economic future and competitiveness depend on them."

Printing 3D Objects at Nano Scales

3D-Printer with Nano-Precision (with video), Vienna University of Technology

"Printing three dimensional objects with incredibly fine details is now possible using "two-photon lithography". With this technology, tiny structures on a nanometer scale can be fabricated. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have now made a major breakthrough in speeding up this printing technique: The high-precision-3D-printer at TU Vienna is orders of magnitude faster than similar devices (see video). This opens up completely new areas of application, such as in medicine."

Pop-Up Robots on Mars?

In New Mass-production Technique, Robotic Insects Spring to Life, Harvard University

"A new technique inspired by elegant pop-up books and origami will soon allow clones of robotic insects to be mass-produced by the sheet. Devised by engineers at Harvard, the ingenious layering and folding process enables the rapid fabrication of not just microrobots, but a broad range of electromechanical devices. In prototypes, 18 layers of carbon fiber, Kapton (a plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets have been laminated together in a complex, laser-cut design. The structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product--just 2.4 millimeters tall--to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book."

Keith's note: Imagine if NASA could achieve packing density for its spacecraft like this - especially for landers. On Mars, for example, swarms of flying probes, covered with photovoltaic materials, armed with sensors, could fan out from a landing site to take measurements. Or a larger glider or balloon coudl release them over a larger area and have them report data back while they are within communications range.

Replicators On The Moon

Replicators Have Arrived, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"Of all the wonders depicted in science fiction books and movies, one of the most intriguing is the machine that makes anything that you need or desire. Merely enter a detailed plan, or push the button for items programmed into the machine - dials twirl, the machine hums and out pops what you requested. Technology gives us Aladdin's Lamp. A handy device that will find many uses. We're not quite there yet but crude versions of such imagined machines already exist."

"This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for the following rapid prototype machine: 1 EA ProJet HD 3000 Plus Professional 3D Printer." More info on NASA JSC procurement

"The ProJetTM HD 3000 3-D Production System offers the option of two modes, High Definition (HD) and Ultra High Definition (UHD), for applications ranging from prototypes and concepts to direct castable models. For direct castable models of fine jewelry and other components, the UHD mode is unmatched in its ability to handle delicate features and produce detailed parts and patterns. For precision models and prototypes, the high speed and exceptional surface quality of the standard HD mode is ideal. Rely on the HD mode everyday for a wide variety of applications including concept development, design verification, form-fit testing, and product presentations."

MADE IN SPACE, a start-up dedicated to providing solutions for manufacturing in space, announced the successful completion of testing 3D printers in zero-gravity. The test took place on multiple zero-gravity flights provided by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. Two modified off-the-shelf 3D printers were tested, including one provided by their partner 3D Systems, a leading provider of 3D printing solutions. The company also tested a custom-made printer that's designed to manufacture structures in space.

Several objects were printed during the flight, including a scaled-down wrench that became the first ever tool printed through partial zero-gravity. They also built a part that was designed by Within Technologies to be optimized for complete strength-to-mass ratio.