Quincy Bean, the principal investigator for the space station printer, removes and inspects the first items made in space with a 3D printer.
Remember when the first 3D-printed objects in space touched down on Earth via SpaceX’s Dragon back on February 10, 2015? Well, now NASA has released a video showing the unboxing of the 21 parts that were manufactured aboard the International Space Station.
The Zero-G 3D Printing Demonstration, which is a collaboration between Silicon Valley-based Made In Space and NASA, represents the first steps toward realizing a print-on-demand “machine shop” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets, where there is extremely limited availability of Earth-based resupply and logistics support. In-space additive manufacturing technologies will ultimately help NASA explore Mars, asteroids, and other locations in the future.
“Before the printer was launched to the space station, it made an identical set of parts. Now, materials engineers will put both the space samples and ground control samples literally under a microscope and through a series of tests,” NASA writes.
In order to protect the space-manufactured items, they must remain in bags until inspection is complete and testing begins at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Once opened, project engineers will compare dimensions, layer thickness, layer adhesion, relative strength and relative flexibility between the identical items made in space and on Earth. From there, they will develop a database of mechanical properties, noting any difference in durability, strength, and structure.
Watch below as more than 20 parts were unboxed on April 6, 2015 at Marshall’s Additive Manufacturing Laboratory.