AMAZE project aims to put first 3D metal printer on the ISSSubmitted by Bob-45 on Sat, 10/19/2013 - 05:54
By Darren Quick
October 17, 2013
3D printers have already migrated from factories to the home and are now set to journey into space, where the cost of delivering replacement tools, components and structures can cost in the millions. The AMAZE (Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products) from the ESA and the European Commission aims to deliver the first 3D metal printer to the International Space Station (ISS) to allow astronauts to print custom objects on demand.
While the home 3D-printing revolution is largely limited to the creation of small plastic objects, the AMAZE project envisages using 3D printers to produce metallic components up to 2 m (6.5 ft) in size, thereby allowing the printing of entire satellites as a way to bypass the need to launch heavy payloads destined for the Moon and Mars from Earth and save time and money.
The ESA is evaluating the potential of five metal additive manufacturing processes with a focus on high-tech alloys, some of which only melt at 3,500° C (6,330° F). "We are using lasers, electron beams and even plasma to melt them," explains David Jarvis, ESA’s Head of New Materials and Energy Research.