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Made in Space Celebrates One Year Anniversary of 3D Printing on the ISS

Made In Space (MIS) celebrated the one-year anniversary (March 23, 2016) of the launch of its Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) to the International Space Station (ISS). Since the second-generation 3D printer was installed on ISS, 39 prints have been made for customers, ranging from medical parts for researchers, parts for NASA and commercial customers such as Lowe’s and the Brazilian company Braskem, to STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) projects for students.
“I’d describe our prints last year as trailblazers, since they were all made in orbit for the first time and we were exploring how best to utilize AMF,” said Matt Napoli, MIS vice president of In-Space Operations. “This year, we expect more advanced prints as we push the envelope of what’s possible with it. We’ve started to print in a new, space-suitable material in PEI/PC (polyetherimide/polycarbonate), giving us the capability to manufacture stronger, more heat-resistant structures.”
With its first 3D printer aboard ISS, MIS began printing in ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) in 2014. Last summer, MIS began printing in Green PE (polyethylene), supplied by Braskem, with AMF. MIS expects to print in many different materials in the coming years, as the company perfects manufacturing techniques needed for building large and complex objects in space. Further planned materials include metals, composites and carbon nanotube-doped materials.

Made In Space is primarily concerned with how the unique traits of the space environment such as persistent microgravity and vacuum conditions can be harnessed to offer new commercial solutions. By manufacturing and assembling structures on orbit, rather than on the planet’s surface, we unlock incredible design possibilities for extending the life of current on-orbit assets or entirely new structures. By pulling fiber in microgravity, we address one of the most critical barriers to perfect ZBLAN on the surface–gravity-caused crystallization. By setting up a prototyping platform on the ISS National Lab, we give researchers the ability to prototype tools and designs in the environment of space with short iteration cycles.

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