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3D printer produces first part on board ISS

The 3D printer, Zero G, which was installed on the International Space Station last week has just printed out its first ever object.

You might have seen this story last week, when Made In Space’s 3D printer was successfully ensconced in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the ISS, with it powering on and functioning correctly.

Then a number of calibration tests needed to be carried out, and these were successful, so Zero G has now printed its first part.

And it’s a replacement part for itself – a backup faceplate for its own extruder printhead. Of course, it can print up any number of replacement parts in readiness for when existing bits wear out or go wrong.

Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made In Space, told NBC: “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.”

Mike Snyder, Director of R&D for Made In Space, added: “This project demonstrates the basic fundamentals of useful manufacturing in space. The results of this experiment will serve as a stepping stone for significant future capabilities that will allow for the reduction of spare parts and mass on a spacecraft, which will change exploration mission architectures for the better. Manufacturing components on demand will yield more efficient, more reliable, and less Earth dependent space programs in the near future.”

The first part made won’t be used for replacement duties, though, and will instead be coming back down to Earth for analysis by NASA, to make sure nothing is awry.