It would seem that additive manufacturing is poised to take on an even greater load for U.S. government agencies, as the Navy and NASA have both announced big plans for 3D printers.
As you might imagine, space is limited on any aircraft carrier — although it’s hard to imagine if you’ve ever been on one. However, space IS precious and stockpiling spare parts for “just-in-case” breakdowns, or storing traditional manufacturing equipment, is just not possible unless you stack it between rows of F/A-18s or stores of food for 5,000 residents. Housing 3D printers and several tons of its substrate, metal powder could save quite a bit of space.
NASA’s first space-bound 3D printer is slated to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) in August 2014. The project, called 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment (3D Print for short) has been spearheaded by a partnership between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the company Made in Space. Together, they aim to design an additive manufacturing production system that is able to repair ISS components, upgrade hardware and manufacture tools for the crew.
Read more from the Digital Manufacturing Report (5/29/13)