The First Hardware Store Made In Space

By CIOReview | Thursday, March 31, 2016

FREMONT, CA: In what could presumably be another leap for mankind in the realm of space exploration, NASA through the launch of Cygnus cargo ship on Tuesday, March 22nd has sent the first of its kind commercial manufacturing facility to the International Space Station. In other words, the first 3D printer capable of working at micro gravity environments that can cater to the needs of astronauts is available at the ISS. Made In Space, a California based 3D printing company founded in 2010 had partnered with NASA to send their Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) to the space station.

AMF brings with it the advantages such as making branded objects in space using materials that have already met the standards required and ability to quickly replace damaged equipments. The technology in effect would help save cost and time involved for getting ‘clearance’ for shipping objects to space while reducing the wait time to get them to the orbit. As the company’s managements states, The business model of AMF translates to,: ‘The first hardware store in space’. In fact the first tool that was uplinked to be 3D printed on the space station was a ratchet meant to replace the old one; during a trial run of an earlier experiment/test phase of the technology titled “3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment,”. The printer which served as a prototype and was launched to the International Space Station on September 21st, 2014 under a partnership agreement between NASA MSFC and Made In Space.

Made In Space will be able to command AMF remotely from their headquarters in the NASA Ames Research Park; thus rendering delivery of object quickly as though they have been sent by e-mail. As reported by tech crunch, users on Earth can pay to use AMF. The company claims to have secured up to 20 paying customers including high schools that are hosting space-related design challenges, universities that will print medical research components, and companies that will print commercial parts for satellites and other spacecraft.

Spencer Pitman, head of product strategy at Made in Space stated that AMF improves on the 3D printing in Microgravity Experiment in terms of robustness and longevity and also includes a number of technology expansions and is able to manufacture products with over 30 different materials. According to him, printing designs on AMF is comparatively immediate, and does not require the certification process since the materials we can print with have all gone through the certification process. He also quoted that the cost of printing will depend on the amount of print bed space taken up and would generally range from $6,000 to $30,000. Discounts are provided for STEM education initiatives.

The technology would be more valuable especially at the time of sending manned mission to mars, where more than four years would be required to travel to or from the planet. With devices like AMF, the colonizers would be able to create necessary tools on the go. Let’s hope Made In Space items would be exempted from taxes and other seeming unnecessary regulations unlike products made in [any country name on earth, bound by those racist borders], though it can be argued that the products are actually made in California for space. It would sound pretty self-centered if not selfish given the tech is a pioneering achievement for entire humanity. Taking a moment to acknowledge the generosity of Elon Musk, who for the greater good, has embraced an open source philosophy on all of Tesla Motor’s patents to make them at the public’s disposal.