|The first 3D printer arrived on the International Space Station last week. It promises to revolutionize transportation of objects into space by transmitting instructions from Earth to the ISS and executing them on the printer. Up to 30% of the items needed on the ISS can be printed on a 3D printer. A report on the new printer explains the process.
I'm pretty jaded when it comes to start-ups suggesting that their product will "disrupt" everything, but, as hyperbolic and cliche as it might sound, the Zero-G Printer arriving to the ISS really is "only the beginning". In the short term, the Made In Space machine can produce tools on the ISS. Whether in the case of an Apollo 13-style emergency or run-of-the-mill astronaut activities, crew members will be able to manufacture, on demand, components critical or quotidian. According to the company, 30% of the spare parts currently aboard the ISS can be manufactured with their 3D printer. With a single shipment of filament, the space station would no longer need to await parts flown up to them, costing valuable weight and space on a given spacecraft that could be used for other items. As 3D printing technology improves, including the variety of materials, the potential for what types of object can be printed will increase the usefulness of a printer in space greatly.