3D printing or additive manufacturing, as it’s often called, is known for speeding up the process of prototyping and creating components in all sorts of industries.
When it comes to the aerospace sector, the potential uses of space 3D printing are endless, and there’s a huge promise as far as space vehicle design and manufacturing goes to decrease the costs of exploratory missions. The space industry might be complex, but 3D printing is very promising and can change the way spaceships are being developed.
3D Printing Technology – How It Works?
A space 3D printer works just like inkjet printers controlled by computers do. The process is called FDM or fused depositional modeling. It builds layer upon layer of the 3D model, bottom-up, to create layers repeatedly in place.
After, the space 3d printer needs only a few hours to build a model, through 3D CAD converting into layers that are not only two-dimensional but also cross-sectional. As a result, separate 2D prints get to be stacked one on top of the other but without any paper in the middle. Since ink would build too much volume, the 3D printer uses adhesive or UV radiation to fuse the layers of molten plastic with the powder together. In the end, it adds them to the already created structure.
The Advantages of 3D Printing for Space Exploration
Here are some advantages of 3D printing in the space industry.
3D printing doesn’t use as many raw materials as they are being used with traditional manufacturing methods. This technology uses lasers and ensures precision. Thus, there are no leftover materials for reusing anymore, whereas the production becomes more optimal and crucial for efficiency.
Also, raw materials are easy to reproduce and use, so they are sent into space at cheaper costs. This means they can be used again in ways that haven’t been employed before. In other words, a 3d printed rocket is simply more affordable.
What’s even more interesting about 3D printing is that it works remotely, meaning it can be used from any location on Earth. This gives it a huge plus, as geography no longer limits it.
It’s expected that 3D printing is going to be very useful for colonizing the planet Mars or the Moon, seeing that people are going to be able to print anything there, from space vehicle parts and food too, eventually, 3d printed spacecraft.
For example, NASA has made a very interesting 3D printing display of a rocket wrench on the International Space Station, and more 3d printed rocket parts are being manufactured even now.
Every kilogram in space is very important, as too much weight can turn a mission into a tragedy when the rocket is encountering opposition and can no longer handle it. However, 3D printing is very useful in this situation, as it reduces weight, leaving less room for error.
In other words, in the space industry, 3D printing is a very useful technique because it reduces weight too.
3D printing capacities can be leveraged by engineers when it comes to modifying designs by employing lattice structures. The most complex problems of engineering can be addressed by putting to use this technology that offers simple yet very effective results.
3D printing can also be used for making specialized rocket parts at the level of design flexibility that the space sector is asking for. Technology is expanding the design space and allows part shapes that many wouldn’t even imagine being created. These shapes are not at all conventional when it comes to both machining and casting, and more than one 3d printed rocket company already makes use of this opportunity.
With the 3D printing technology, the waste is reduced by 70% to 90% than with any other traditional method.
3D printing is encouraging the reuse of industrial resources, like for example, recycling plastic to make new materials. This makes those who want a greener Earth happier. Looking at how this technology is going to work in the long run, it can easily be admitted that it’s going to have the brightest future in the space industry.
Space Companies That Are Using 3D Printing Technology
Skyrora, Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, and Fleet Space are a few of the space companies that have put a lot of emphasis on 3D printing and are using it for manufacturing sophisticated equipment.
To Sum Up
3D printing and made in space 3d printer have the potential to democratize the creation of goods ranging from medical supplies to food, making it very beneficial for space travel and colonizing other planets.