NASA has announced its intentions to move into using 3D printing in space, so they can create spare parts as and when they need them. The 3D hardware builds objects layer by layer with the use of polymers and other materials was first used in space on the 25th November 2014. Perhaps NASA will be designing their own Christmas tree in space.
NASA have detailed other potential uses for a 3D printer in space. These have covered things such as tools that astronauts in space for lengthy periods of time might need, or when trips to Mars become readily available to the public, a 3D printer can supply necessities to customers. Of course, it is important not to forget the uses this ground-breaking printer technology has on earth.
3D printing has become a phenomenon that has now reached outer space. Also, officials within the Texas-based Systems and Materials Consultancy have started considering being able to print food, but this is likely to take several years to refine. 20 years ago, being able to do your grocery shopping on an iPad would have seemed like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. However, as with all technology, over time, advancements and developments take place, and the inventions then trickle down into the mass market at more affordable prices.
So, with all this talk of 3D printers creating food and tools in the depths of the universe, it has left us wondering just what limits 3D printing has. Well, it certainly appears there are not many. A 3D printer uses layers to build the object, from whichever material has been selected using the same machine. This in turn means that you could even print yourself a bike. A 3D printer can create moving parts such as hinges and wheels as part of the same object. So that would mean having handlebars, a saddle, frame, wheels, brakes, pedals and a chain readily assembled, without using any tools!
While purchasing a 3D printer is less expensive than buying a factory, the cost per item would be significantly more, so the economics don't quite add up as of yet. Printing objects won't have the finish and finesse that industrial machines can create, nor will they offer the wide scope of different materials and sizes. That said, medical experts are already looking at how a 3D printer can be used to create body parts including personalised bones that will fit perfectly.
Xerox Printers have teamed up with Fuji to produce a range of 3D printers that can be purchased by businesses. Although not available in the UK yet, this is still largely being introduced in Asia, with many trials taking place in Tokyo, Japan. Undoubtedly 3D printing is sweeping through different industries, and it is too early to tell just how widespread their uses will be. However, rest assured that Printware will keep you up to date with all of the information and developments.