New Microgravity 3D Printer Prototype Soon to be Delivered to the ISS4th May 2022
ESA, working along with a consortium of aerospace companies, has presented a microgravity 3D printer prototype that should soon be deployed to the International Space Station (ISS) for testing. The machine, called IMPERIAL, can 3D print aerospace component parts much larger than itself – unlike all previous off-earth technology ever developed before.
About the IMPERIAL Microgravity 3D Printer
The new microgravity 3D printer from ESA is designed to operate in weightlessness and bring on the capabilities of additive manufacturing to the ISS. IMPERIAL can create high-performance polymer component parts of any size and dimensions. Still, the most significant accomplishment for the ISS is that this printer ensures the same quality as any other 3D printer would under nominal (gravity) circumstances.
Developed by OHB SE, Azimut Space and other renowned aerospace companies, the microgravity 3D printer now awaits deployment to the ISS. If the consortium tech demonstrates its worth in orbit, humanity will draw one step closer to out-of-Earth manufacturing – according to the OHB SE Project Manager.
Previous ESA & Consortium Contributions to the ISS
The microgravity 3D printer is not the only example of innovative technology brought to the ISS by the European Space Agency members. The first 3D printer (MELT) was delivered to the International Space Station back in 2018 and was fully capable of working in zero-gravity conditions. However, unlike the new IMPERIAL prototype, MELT was rather restricted in size and dimensions of its polymer parts – a drawback IMPERIAL was designed to address.
Soon enough, the IMPERIAL microgravity 3D printer will travel almost 250 miles to the International Space Station, and if the technology proves valid, the consortium could well move to the commercial manufacture stage – eventually paving the way for other industries besides the space one.