The European Space Agency (ESA) is testing a 3D printer designed to work under microgravity and fabricate with engineering polymers featuring high end mechanical and thermal properties.
A prototype 3D printer capable of printing in microgravity has been handed over to the European Space Agency (ESA) for use on the International Space Station (ISS).
Developed by leading Portuguese 3D printer manufacturer BEEVERYCREATIVE and an international consortium of partners, the microgravity 3D printer has been two years in the making.
The goal of the MELT project — Manufacturing of Experimental Layer Technology — is to design, develop and test a fully functional 3D printer that can work under the microgravity conditions on the ISS (International Space Station).
It must be capable of 3D printing demanding engineering polymers with high end mechanical and thermal properties. And it needs to be simple enough to operate and maintain by astronauts on board the ISS.
The international consortium, made up of Portugal’s BEEVERYCREATIVE, Germany’s SONACA Space, Germany’s OHB-System and Portugal’s Active Space Technologies has now delivered their prototype machine to ESA for testing.
ESA is Going to MELT Plastic in Space
Moving forward, BEEVERYCREATIVE plans to leverage the knowledge gained from the MELT project into developing a new, industry-oriented 3D printer for product development needs and rapid prototyping.
This new printer is being developed by the Portuguese start-up with the support of Instituto Pedro Nunes, who are a member of ESA’s Network of Technology Transfer Brokers. They facilitate the commercialization of space technology in non-space markets, and disseminate the best and most promising space technologies and competencies of Portuguese space companies and academies.
The institute also coordinates the ESA Incubation Center in Portugal, where startups that transfer space technology to terrestrial sectors are supported, as well as new companies wishing to enter the commercial space market, called New Space.
The new 3D printer from BEEVERYCREATIVE will be aimed at industries like automotive, footwear, electronic and many others, who require rapid prototyping with high-end properties, ease of use, material diversity and design flexibility. Overall, these industries will benefit from time and cost reduction in the product development processes.