Why do we need 3D Printing In Space?

3 Mins read
3D Printing In Space
3D Printing In Space/Source: NASA

Whether it is the 3D printing of satellites or any other type of equipment, 3D printing in space remains an advanced technology. Some see 3D printing as a disruptive technology, but this is not the case. As this article will show, it presents many benefits for today’s space industry and doesn’t pose a threat to anyone. We have been using 3D printing for some time now, and not only in the aerospace industry. But ever since the 2000s, seamless 3D printed rocket engines have been in great demand. For example, a rocket engine from Rocket Lab’s Rutherford uses injectors, pumps, and combustion chambers printed via electron beam melting. 

The 3D printing logistics support system is already doing a great job for spacecraft in our orbits. And now that we are getting ready for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, 3D printing in space can play a crucial part. After all, on such long missions, astronauts need to make their own materials, spare parts, and tools on demand. In other words, they need to be ready for both routine and unforeseen events. And this is exactly where 3D printing should come in.

Why is 3D printing the future?

There are many aspects in which 3D printing can help develop the aerospace industry; this technology can be one of the major assets for space travel. Researchers are interested in finding all sorts of applications for additive manufacturing. Rocket parts that are 3D printed end up in space. More importantly, there are parts that astronauts can print in space vacuum or in microgravity. There’s additive manufacturing for in-space and aerospace industries. And 3D printing has various advantages that contribute to space exploration development. For example, 3D printing allows making tools on demand and even preparing some basic foods in orbit and beyond.

Still, the most important benefit of 3D printing today is that it can ensure a practically limitless supply of auxiliary parts without the need to rely on re-supply missions from Earth. 3D printing gives space manufacturers complete flexibility for prototyping aerospace parts. And 3D printed tools are not at all expensive to manufacture. Further, 3D printing improves both the manufacturing and engineering quality of any tool necessary to create. At the same time, 3D printing facilitates producing lightweight aerospace structures. The incredible services of 3D printing bring a contribution, too, by helping with fuel savings and reducing the environmental impact since fewer re-supply missions are required when tools and space pars are produced in space. 

What are some benefits of 3D printing in space?

3D Printing Uses
3D Printing Uses

According to Orbital Today, 3D printing in space offers many benefits. As mentioned, one of the first benefits of 3D printing is innovating the aerospace industry. Next, it also works for more affordable prototyping, thus, saving experimental technology production costs. Not to mention that a functional 3D printing prototype saves plenty of time, too. 3D printers that work in space are perfect for Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). And they contribute greatly to saving time between working on experiments. 3D printing is not only cost-effective; it also allows an increase in production quantity. Besides, it saves on development and research, especially when compared to manufacturing conventional techniques. 

Further, 3D printing allows the creation of vast alloys for building space parts. It uses Titanium, Copper, Inconel, Aluminum, Carbon fibre, and Ferrous composites that are perfectly suited for the space sector. 3D printing also minimizes space waste. And aerospace wastage causes the space industry to lose millions. At the same time, it makes designing more precise and helps reduce the costs of any material used when building rocket parts. What’s also interesting about 3D printing is that it allows astronauts to have an easier daily life when on space missions. If they are missing a tool while in space, they could just rapidly print it to replace it.

What benefits do 3D printing present for humans living in space?

Now that you get a grasp of how 3D printing has changed the world of aerospace manufacturing, it’s time to analyse this technology’s benefits for humans living in space. And let’s start with the one that can blow your mind. For example, did you know that you could 3D print food in space? Yes, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) use 3D printers to “cook” their food. In other words, using 3D printers in space can satisfy the basic need of humans living there first.

And don’t believe that 3D printing’s benefits for humans living in space stop here. Astronauts can also use 3D printers to build their space suits and clothes. This eliminates the need for re-supplying the spacecraft with new equipment. And as mentioned, this equipment could be spare parts for rockets as well. For example, astronauts on the ISS would no longer need to receive supplies from Earth on their missions. It’s incredible how 3D printing could supply them with everything they would need, including food. Isn’t it?

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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