3D printer on ISS makes first item: a part for itself

Made In Space's 3D printer, which is currently housed on the International Space Station, has printed its first item. While Earthbound printers might be used for toys or other trinkets, the 3D printer in space has a better idea: parts. The first item the printer printed was a spare part. For itself. the 3D printer orbiting the one on your desk is very similar, too: ABS plastic, fed through a filament, that lays out items on a base. The printer arrived via SpaceX's Dragon ship.

If you're curious what the part was, it's a replacement faceplate for its own print head casing (shown above). Wrap your human head around that one for a minute.

Forgetting the humor of the situation, it's a monumental accomplishment. We haven't just printed in space, we've taken the first steps toward producing goods away from the surface of the Earth. Here's what Made In Space's Aaron Kemmer had to say about it:

It's not only the first part printed in space, it's really the first object truly manufactured off planet Earth. Where there was not an object before, we essentially 'teleported' an object by sending the bits and having it made on the printer. It's a big milestone, not only for NASA and Made In Space, but for humanity as a whole.

As 3D printing expands, we can expect other materials to be similarly available for printing items. It's now easy to consider a day when 3D printing scales to produce replacement parts for the space station itself.

The process wasn't perfect — it took two calibration tries before the printer would perform — but the finished product was usable. It won't be used, because Astronauts are sending it back to Earth for analysis, but it happened, and that's pretty special.

Source: NBC