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NASA is 3D printing objects in space


At long last, 3D printing has conquered its final frontier: space. NASA has successfully printed its first 3D object aboard the International Space Station. It's just a tiny faceplate that identifies the printer maker (Made In Space), but it's both a symbolic milestone and a source of valuable feedback for tweaking the printer's output. For instance, NASA now knows that parts stick to the print tray more in microgravity than they do on Earth; it's possible that plastic layers bond differently in orbit.

It'll be a while before there's significant progress. More 3D-printed objects are coming, but they won't come back to Earth for studies until early 2015. And like you'd imagine, it'll take longer still before spaceborne printing is truly ready for prime time. Eventually, though, NASA expects spacecraft to be 3D printing their own spare parts, saving crews from having to carry a lot of extra supplies just in case something goes wrong.

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