First Ever 3D Printed Object From Asteroid Metals

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Mr. Gary Bickford's picture

A 3D printer presently resides on the International Space Station, and successfully prints various objects. So the basics of managing this task in microgravity have been at least provisionally solved. That printer only makes objects using one particular plastic material and a different printing method than the one presented here by Planetary Resources, but now this 'futuristic' technology can be seen to transition from science fiction, to science, and now to engineering how to build different types of components, using different methods - the domain of entrepreneurs and engineers. A near-term reasonable target will be to build a series of 3D printers, in space, using the maximum amount of in situ materials, and increasing the amount near 100% as soon as possible.

It is interesting that 3D printing has now become one of the primary enabling technologies for space development. I was messing around with the concept back in the early 1980s but never considered how useful it would be for space. I was not alone. 3D printing is actually old enough that the early patents gave expired.