RepRap – in space! (sorta)

We aren’t exactly sure how or even why you would need to RepRap in space, but we guess their team needed something to do while designing and printing their next version. They figure that if they can print completely upside down in -1G and then upside up in 1G, that 0G hopefully wont be a problem; hopefully being the keyword.

Even if it isn’t true space printing, the concept opens several new doors. Instead of having risky rocket or shuttle launches when the secondary air oscillator on the IIS is struck by an asteroid, print a new one. Or perhaps, the ocean floor research facilities’ external hull is punctured by an asteroid, print a new one. Or the HaD office chair breaks because [Mike] was hit by an asteroid, print a new one.

Lets not get ahead of ourselves here. But alongside circuit board printing, perhaps in-home fabrication is the way of the future. What would you like to print? Before you answer, yes, we will release the [Mike©] plans.

[Thanks Julius]

Comments

  1. anon says:

    You really can’t see the utility in being able to fab parts from scratch on the space station or in the shuttle?

    Really?

    Did you ever see Apollo 13?

  2. Adrenaline Junkie says:

    Someone’s humor switch is broken…

    Let’s fab a new one!

  3. Martin says:

    > Did you ever see Apollo 13?

    Yes. And did *you* ever see how long a RepRap takes to print something? The astronauts would be out of oxygen before the part was done!

  4. Iv says:

    The reprap obvisouly is not the ideal machine for the ISS, but having rapid prototyping capabilities or small CNC tools would have obvious usefullness. Stop bringing new experiments from earth, BUILD new ones instead ! You still need raw materials but that would be an interesting step.

    The NASA used to financed research on Von Neumann probes and self-replicating devices. I wish they continued some fundamental researches that are only remotely connected to space exploration.

  5. manatee_militia says:

    I wonder if true zero g would affect the density of the extruded material.

  6. polymath says:

    so are they suggesting we print a new office chair or a new [Mike]?

  7. Maroc says:

    the whole CNC thing is great just wish I had one want to “Print” a L.A.M. for a Airsoft pistol

  8. matt says:

    NASA’s still on it. But with metal: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/features/electron_beam.html

    For long term manned missions, it’d be nice to be able to make a part in case of failure.

    Also, you can custom make alloys during the manufacture process.

  9. mars says:

    @matt: Woah. That’s cool.

  10. mars says:

    >I wonder if true zero g would affect the density of the extruded material.

    Likely not enough to be noticed.

  11. Jack says:

    I remember seeing something on either the science channel or the discovery channel where NASA was thinking of fabricating homes/buildings on the moon. It would make like a paste from the lunar dust and create igloo type structures layer by layer. I can definitely see the usefulness of this.

  12. medix says:

    “NASA’s still on it. But with metal.”

    That is likely because they (and the rest of industry) realized that plastic, while nice for ‘prototyping’, is basically useless.

  13. sly says:

    Plastic is great for clips and other low tension fasteners. I need about 10 plastic clips for my car that are out of production. This would be a great way to source them.

  14. matt says:

    “That is likely because they (and the rest of industry) realized that plastic, while nice for ‘prototyping’, is basically useless.”

    Pretty much, yeah. The polycarb stuff from the pro FDM machines can be used for light duty assembly tools. But there are very few cases where it’d justify the cost of the machine for that application alone.

  15. nope says:

    Plastic is useless. Nonsense. I love polyethylene. The stuff that milk jugs and soda bottles are made of. NASA was working on a fun catalyst system that I cant think of off the top of my head. You simply give it co2 and water. It pumps out mehtane, propane, ehtanol, based on what heat it is run at, plus through another simple reaction polyethylene! Yeah! Make your own rocket fuel and plastic for buildings with the mars atmosphere. I just can’t remember where to get more info on it. Sorry guys.

  16. Vik Olliver says:

    In space, vacuum-coating things with metal is trivial. Plus, RepRap is not limited to plastics – that’s just mostly what we work with for convenience and because we have a pathetic budget.

    I actually started down the RepRap path when I realised that the closed environmental life support system I was designing needed to be self-repairing.

    Vik :v)

  17. DubMuffin says:

    I think the important thing to note here is not whether this opens up ‘applications in space’ but rather that the mechanism is no longer dependent on a constant -y acceleration due to gravity. This allows the entire assembly to be taken off-axis without negatively impacting operation.

  18. PidGin128 says:

    >> #comment-102624
    @Jack : I remember seeing that also. They had footage of it forming building walls [in the desert I think?]. I remember them focusing on the transition from one layer to another for some reason.

  19. l says:

    Perhaps printing a toothbrush with crisscross fibers in one piece would be a nice capability test.

  20. anonymous coward says:

    Synthesizing plastic parts (instead of metal) would have two key advantages over most structural metals in space applications for two reasons. First, it takes less energy to melt most plastics than most metals because they melt at lower temperatures and have lower heat conductivity. Energy is pretty scarce in space.

    Second, the raw materials and resulting synthesized plastic parts are about an order of magnitude lighter than metals. In space missions, mass is everything.

    Even if I had already committed to FDM metal parts, I’d still want to have the capability to synthesize plastic parts (preferably with the same device, of course) because it would be such a huge win with every opportunity to use it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92,115 other followers