Will 3D printing technology serve as the harbinger for future space odysseys? It seems so. The Hawthorne-based SpaceX will soon carry the first 3-D printer to the International Space Station (ISS). 3D printers will enable astronauts to make any part of the spaceship in a jiffy negating the need to carry cumbersome spares.
Printing project manager Niki Werkheiser said, “We could go from having a part designed on the ground to print in the orbit. The on-demand capability can revolutionize the constrained supply chain model we are limited to today and will be critical for exploration missions.”
3D printing technology has immense use in the coming times. It could revolutionize the way we create prototypes and also reduce the time required to introduce any new technology in the market. Technology goes through a long gestation period and prototypes are designed to be tested. If there is any bug which requires a change in the design, all the process has to be repeated once again adding to the costs as well as time. 3D printing will enable changes to be incorporated in the design stage and a second, improved prototype could be designed.
3D printers can produce three dimensional objects by adding consecutive layers of molten materials, typically plastics or metal alloys. In recent times laser has been used to melt metallic powder which is used to create the object. The 3D printer which is being sent to the ISS by NASA on September 19 is about the size of a microwave oven and has been designed to work in Zero Gravity Condition.
It has been reported that two of the three major aviation giants, SpaceX, Boeing and Virgin Galactic are competing for a contract worth $3 billion to launch space taxis. Virgin Galactic and SpaceX have reportedly signed a deal with Spaceport America to test their reusable rockets