Countdown To 3d Printing In Space

3d Printer In Space – HAL Yeah

Countdown Restarted For The First 3d Printer In Space

The first 3d Printer is about to be put into space. Yes, that’s right. History is being created. NASA will put the first 3d Printer into space and use it on board the International Space Station (ISS).  The initial launch was cancelled for Saturday, Sept. 20, but the new countdown is underway as of the writing of this post.

Countdown To 3d Printing In Space
Countdown To 3d Printing In Space

The 3d Printer That Will Make History

Below is the first 3d Printer In Space.  (All going well of course.) This is the printer that will be put into space only a few hours from the writing of this post.  It is a the Zero-G 3d Printer.  One of the goals of the project is to understand the long-terms effects of microgravity on 3D printing as well as how it can support space exploration in the future.

Image Credit: Made In Space - 3d Printer In Space
Image Credit: Made In Space – 3d Printer In Space

Video Credit: Made In Space (CASIS)

The Influence Of Space Travel

Yes, this is a new era. We will see the first use of a “3d Printer In Space”.  Think of how influential space travel has been.  It has heralded the entry of so many innovations.  Showing us pictures of our future.

Space exploration does so much to advance technological innovation.  Innovation from a stretch space travel goal or of course a World War create a hot house for technological breakthroughs. These major events seem to drive breakthroughs in thinking. Of course who wants a war to come up with some new gadgets and ideas. Much better we do it via space?

Innovations That Have Been Advanced Through Space Exploration

  • The Joystick.* This computer gaming device was first used on the Apollo Lunar Rover.
Joystick: this computer gaming device was first used on the Apollo Lunar Rover.
Joystick: this computer gaming device was first used on the Apollo Lunar Rover.


  • Freeze Drying.* (I remember getting freeze dried space food when I was a kid and being absolutely amazed.)


Freeze Dried Space Food
Freeze Dried Space Food


  • Temper foam.* That’s the stuff that seems to instantly mould itself around your fingers when you press it.
  • Solar Cells.* Yes, back in the early days, the ERAST Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology Alliance sponsored the research that came up with the Single-crystal silicon solar cell. Which of course are now widely available at low cost.


Solar Panels In Space
Solar Panels In Space
  • Flame-Resistant Textiles.* After a tragic burning death during one of the early Apollo missions, flame resistant fabrics were invented that have no doubt saved thousands of lives.
Flame Resistant Textiles
Flame Resistant Textiles
  • Ear Thermometer.*
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory » ear thermometer
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory » ear thermometer
  • Light Weight Cordless Tools.*


Zero-Reaction Space Power Tool Closeup
Zero-Reaction Space Power Tool Closeup

Space – Invention Or Promotion?

It is often thought that many inventions were created by space missions, such as:

  1. Velcro
  2. Teflon
  3. The Microwave

and many others.

But often what space programs have done is make those technologies famous. The vast sums of money and extreme demands of space travel, drive major advances in these technologies.

The cordless power tool was not invented by NASA, it was invented by Black & Decker, but it was certainly innovated on during the space programs. The initial invention was cumbersome and not practical.  With the need for tools that could indeed be used day to day in space breakthroughs in size and weight were made.  Later those innovations were adopted by Black & Decker and the rest is history.  Yes, imagine what we would be doing in our sheds and man caves without the light weight cordless power tool?

There is no doubt that the pursuit of space exploration drives significant innovation and improvement not to mention the widespread public promotion of the use of these technologies.

This publicity and marketing can have the effect of bringing a technology to the front of the public mind and create a ground swell of interest. If we look at 3d Printing and it’s use in space exploration. It does seem that there will be a lot of spin off benefit for the blossoming 3d Printing industry.  NASA has certainly not invented the 3d Printer, but of course by pioneering and putting a 3d Printer In Space, it will most certainly drive the technologies visibility to a whole new level.  For us to see the first 3d Printer in space is a very big milestone for our modern society.  It marks another massive step forward for the technology.

NASA The Marketing Machine

It’s true that organisations like NASA don’t have the budgets that they used to have as a proportion of total Government spending. But they are still able to do a lot as far as affecting public opinion. They have excellent websites and initiatives like NASA TV.

NASA also has fantastic links into Universities, Colleges and Schools.  With excellent programs to promote itself and the technologies it innovates with.

Conclusions On The 3d Printer In Space

NASA is currently funding an initiative to create 3d Printed food systems for space.   I have posted about 3d Printing food before, HERE and HERE in my “Desktop Factory” post along with a previous post that covers 3d Printings Planned role on the Mars HERE expedition.

I do believe that the many applications that 3d Printing could have as a desktop factory will make it vital to the sustainability / viability of any long term space mission.  It will be integral to some of the following:

  • Food Production
  • Bio Printing
  • Replacement Parts Printing
  • Short Run Manufacturing / Prototyping For Survival And Advancement Of Capabilities Far From Support

The possibilities are endless.

The case for 3d Printing in space is strong.  The 3d Printing Industry will no doubt benefit from the growing realisation by organisations such as NASA, that 3d Printing technology holds one of the keys to viability of its more ambitious space ventures.

We are seeing the first 3d Printer in space.  This is a significant step in the evolution of this technology.  It shows that there is a strong and growing realisation by NASA that this technology is crucial to the future of space exploration.  It may also be the first steps to seeing 3d Printing morphing into the Desktop Factory of the future.



* Source 

3d Printer In Space – HAL Yeah

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