The thought of 3D printed materials being used in space exploration is quite fascinating. The revolution of 3D printing just continues to expand at an exponential rate. One of the main factors of NASA space exploration missions comes down to budget allotted by our government. In 2015, it has been reported that Congress has approved a $17.5 billion budget for NASA.
So, anything that could help ease the cost of materials heading to space would be a great benefit for exploration. Now, with 3D printers becoming smaller and more accessible, it will be possible for astronauts to bring the printers up to space with them, as listed in this recent article by phys.org:
“Manned missions could carry a 3D printer with them to ensure full self-reliance as they fly many months or years distant from Earth. Any broken item could be quickly and easily replaced.” This would absolutely come in handy if NASA does end up sending manned spacecraft to Mars.
One reason that this technology will be so useful for NASA is due to the type of manufacturing that 3D printing will allow. This is known as Additive Manufacturing (AM). Basically, rather than starting with a large mold that is chiseled down to create whatever objects are needed (known as Subtractive Manufacturing), with 3D printing you can create several smaller parts that you would then piece together. Certainly there will be more news on this in the future, so stay tuned!