Wanting to raise the future engineers’ interest in the 3D printing technology, last year in December NASA organized a high school contest for the best space tool design. The winner of the competition observed on Wednesdays the live printing of its model on the International Space Station.
The contest had more than 470 participating drawings. The design that won was the Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool. Its author is now an engineering student and had the opportunity to watch the 3D printing of its device.
The winning object is supposed to be used inside the International Space Station, and it’s actually a multitool.
The contest highlights a new way of solving technical problems in space. The engineers could now transfer their designs to ISS, and there the objects could be created by the 3D printer. Astronauts would not need to wait for a supply from the Earth, as they could manufacture them directly on the spacecraft.
“When you have a problem, it will drive specific requirements and solutions. 3-D printing allows you to do a quick design to meet those needs. That’s the beauty of this tool and this technology,” said NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.
NASA hopes that by using 3D technology, the astronauts would be able to build complex structures with materials that can be found directly on Mars.
The 3D printer is a type of industrial robot that can create three-dimensional objects by adding successive layers of material. The machine can be programmed to manufacture any type of object, as long as the blueprints are correctly introduced in its software.
Engineers would want to use in space the fused deposition model because it is one of the fastest creators of prototypes and it is relatively inexpensive. This technique is also used in manufacturing scaffolds for medical purposes.
Another advantage of the fused deposition 3D printer model is that it has a smaller size when compared with other models. For example, the device used on ISS has the size of a microwave.
The 3D printing project in space started in the autumn of 2014 when the printer was sent to the International Space Station. Since then, astronauts used it to print 25 objects.
Printing 3D objects in space with no gravity may give the opportunity to design objects that would be impossible to exist in Earth-like conditions. Thus, the engineers could draw models and then use the 3D printer in space to test their inventions.
Image Source: YouTube