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NASA Explores 3D Printing: 5 Cool Projects
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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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2/11/2014 | 10:22:46 AM
DIY space probe
Maybe someday they'll include a 3D Printer on a Mars (or Titan or Io) rover, so it can manufacture its own tools as needed during exploration.

How else could this fit in?
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
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2/11/2014 | 10:32:35 AM
Re: DIY space probe
On a similar note, what happen when there's an equipment malfunction or something vital breaks in space? You print a replacement part.
MarkPorter
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MarkPorter,
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2/11/2014 | 4:25:45 PM
Re: DIY space probe
Perhaps this is a stupid question, but doesn't 3D printing, at least on earth, require gravity?  I guess perhaps it's a function of the printing medium, but I'm wondering how a device takes into account zero gravity or the gravity found on our favorite planets?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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2/11/2014 | 5:00:33 PM
Re: DIY space probe
I love this question, because it never occurred to me. I found this article that described tests proving 3D printing can work without gravity, though it didn't explain how: 

http://www.space.com/21630-3d-printer-space-station-tests.html
WKash
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WKash,
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2/11/2014 | 6:08:54 PM
Re: DIY space probe
Thanks for sharing the link about printing in zero gravity. It is an intriguing concept.

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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2/11/2014 | 10:31:12 AM
Whole new world
Make your own tools on the spot. What would the Apollo astronauts make of 3D printing in space?
gev
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gev,
User Rank: Moderator
2/11/2014 | 11:59:59 AM
materials ?!
One of the most important part of any tool/spare part is its material. Parts are tested to work with other parts when manutectured out of specified material. Those specifications are vital for everything to be working as designed.

So how come everyone here pretends that materials are irrelevant?

It seems that the next logical step would be to print pills - as long as the tablets come in the right shape and color we'd be ok, right?
anon3823417683
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anon3823417683,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2014 | 2:15:28 PM
Re: materials ?!
ACTUALLY... as 3D printers that are able to get more and more precise are becoming more and more mainstream, that's not entirely unreasonable. Currently the technology isn't readily available to be able to print on a molecular level consistently, but as the technology is refined and becomes more available for studies of new ways to adapt it and make it more exact, it's entirely possible to be able to create designer medications. Imagine medication that was based on your specific DNA and physiology - side effects would be a thing of the past because each formula would be tailored to you specifically, and would be able to account for your unique body chemistry. If you could create a formula molecule by molecule, why couldn't you take 2 molecules of hydrogen and 1 molecule of oxygen and bond them to create water? We've been 3D mapping chemicals for years now. At this point, it's just a matter of being able to build on that small of a scale.
gev
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gev,
User Rank: Moderator
2/11/2014 | 2:35:00 PM
Re: materials ?!
because apparently you have no clue what is the difference between a molecule and an atom, and still speak about chemistry.

as to designing tailored medicine, who will it be tested on - me? no thank you.

It is scary though that no one even seems to understand the question. When you 3-d print, you are confinded to materials that work with the printer. These are not the materials with which the original part where designed/tested. How then one takes a responsibility to say - here - print this part and use it in place of the one that broke?

Obviously 'printing' food (eg shaping it) has nothing to do with actually producing food.
WKash
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WKash,
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2/11/2014 | 3:20:05 PM
Re: materials ?!
The materials question is both central to the discussion on 3D printing, and for now, a bit beside the point. This is obviously all in the experimental stage for NASA for now.  But you know 3D printing has come of age when NASA is piloting a variety of projects around it.

 
Tony A
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Tony A,
User Rank: Strategist
2/11/2014 | 3:33:27 PM
Re: materials ?!
Obviously there are reasons why certain materials were chosen to make the original parts, but if you are in space and an important part breaks or goes missing you are going to have to find a substitute, which will be neither the right shape nor the right material. A 3D printer would at least solve the first problem; the second, you use materials that can be put to a variety of potential uses. You might be able to keep a variety of 3D printing compounds around - say, one for resistance to heat, another to cold, another for flexibility. Keep a few 3D printers on board instead of a storeroom full of spare parts most of which will never get used. Develop parts that allow you to improve or extend the apparatus for scientific experiments that were conceived many years ago. This is the closest you get to having a factory on board. It sounds almost inevitable assuming the technology actually works in space.
chrisrut
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chrisrut,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2014 | 3:23:08 PM
Re: materials ?! say what?
Only an idiot would try to replace a device or part made from one material with a wildly dissimilar material.

But what on earth (or in space) leads you to assume the NASA engineers would do that?

Clearly, new materils = new designs.

 

 

 
ElenaMalykhina
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ElenaMalykhina,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 2:11:06 PM
3D food
NASA is also working with Texas-based company Systems and Materials Research Consultancy to explore the possibility of using a 3D printer for making food in space. Naturally, the big concerns with that are safety, acceptability, variety, and nutritional value.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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2/11/2014 | 5:31:27 PM
Re: 3D food
You'd think astronauts would be pretty game to try out some of these 3D foods, considering what they have to live on during the three, six, 12 months they're in space. Of course, the armed forces are also looking into this area for obvious reasons. A big development is the ability to print using different materials with one printer. 
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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2/11/2014 | 6:13:29 PM
Re: 3D food
In this InformationWeek Radio broadcast, ConocoPhillips' CIO talks about his interest in 3D printing for the same reason as NASA -- the prospect of printing replacement parts at a hard-to-get-to-location. In his case it's a remote oil and gas rig, where they keep a lot of expensive spare parts on hand because it's difficult to deliver spare parts and extremely costly if rig isn't pumping. 

http://www.informationweek.com/radio.asp?webinar_id=72
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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2/12/2014 | 9:59:17 AM
Re: 3D food
Thanks for sharing that broadcast, Chris. 3D printing has a lot of potential in many different areas. Unfortunately, it got off to a mixed start since 3D guns grabbed the headlines. But I've read a lot about advances in healthcare and 3D -- things like printing an ear, a liver... all sorts of literally life-changing advances. Add in the business implications, and it's not an overstatement to say 3D printing is changing the world.


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