We are Made In Space, a four year old space company based out of Mountain View, CA. We are doing this AMA along with a representative of NASA MSFC who contracted the development of this printer. The printer is currently scheduled for launch to the International Space Station on September 20th at 2:16AM aboard a SpaceX rocket. Next year we will be sending up a larger printer which will be commercially available to anyone on Earth!

By this time next week there will be another way to get hardware to space, you can email it.

Proof: http://madeinspace.us/redditproof

Other Redditers related to the project who will be joining the conversation:

NikiWerk = Niki Werkheiser, In-Space Manufacturing Project Manager, NASA MSFC

ImJasonDunn = Jason Dunn, CTO, Made In Space

EDIT: Thank you all for the great questions! Stay tuned for our launch in 33 hours!

Comments: 76 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

Zippy020112 karma

Thanks for the AmA! Would the 3d printer function differently in space than it would on earth? Is this printer specifically optimized for space?

WeAreMadeInSpace7 karma

Yes, after testing commercial off-the-shelf 3D printers in micro-gravity simulating parabolic flights we found a number of issues that needed to be overcome. The printer we are launching now was built from the ground up specifically to operate in the closed-loop, zero gravity environment of the ISS.

xilvar6 karma

Would it be possible to print something that could survive reentry? Perhaps a variant of those spinny seed pods?

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

Not with this first printer but we really like that idea!

NorbitGorbit5 karma

did you beat out any competitors for the gig, and which of their features do you wish your device had?

WeAreMadeInSpace10 karma

This contract was a fairly competed government contract with NASA, so yes, we had to beet out competitors. Our technology however is the only 3D printing technology developed for the space environment and has been tested for over 4 hours in the Zero-G Corp. airplane. Fun fact, it also works in lunar and Mars gravity!

WeAreMadeInSpace5 karma

We will begin answering questions at 4:00PM Eastern Time

ksigruben4 karma

What components will be printed on the ISS with this printer? Will the components be used by the astronauts? What tests have been planned/prepared to ensure that the components are strong enough? What is the total amount of components that are expected to be printed?

WeAreMadeInSpace3 karma

We worked with NASA to identify science objectives for testing the functionality of the 3D printer in zero-g. To get ready for true commercialization, there are certain prints that we need to do in order to verify that the process works the same on the ISS as it does here in our lab. Much of the first prints are "test coupons" that will come back to Earth for analysis.

votenanocratic4 karma

What's the "ink" in your printer and how do you keep it from going everywhere in orbit before it's printed?

WeAreMadeInSpace7 karma

The "ink" for this first printer is ABS plastic, it is stored as a solid filament wound around a spool. During the extruding process, the plastic becomes very soft but never quite liquid so it never has a chance to "go everywhere." It's also contained within an enclosure called a Environmental Control Unit (ECU) which further protects the surrounding environment in case something goes wrong.

TeamOldGods4 karma

Hello! Thanks for this! 1. What kind of materials do you print? 2. How does the software for slicing, modeling, etc. differ for a zero-g printer? 3. Need an intern or something? Hey-o!

WeAreMadeInSpace4 karma

  1. ABS plastic for the first printer, the second printer will use multiple materials
  2. Ask Us Anything! (except that)
  3. Yea! http://www.madeinspace.us/careers

blackout4944 karma

How does the printer work in the zero g environment?

WeAreMadeInSpace7 karma

Really, really well

SophiesMark3 karma

Are the plastics that are made going to be tested on the exterior of ISS, like other materials are tested as part of MISSE?

WeAreMadeInSpace6 karma

Yes, although this will likely be done with our second printer which will have multiple materials and some designed especially for exposure to the vacuum of space. ABS plastic, the only material the first printer uses, degrades very quickly in space.

LaserGnomes3 karma

Is the material used recyclable, my understanding is that space is valuable... will parts ultimately be ejected into the cosmos?

WeAreMadeInSpace3 karma

Yes we are working on a material recycler for exactly this purpose. Parts can be optionally launched into orbit from the ISS

Geekitgood2 karma

May I please have a printed object from space? What types of degrees do you all have from college? Do you see the possibility of ever printing with filaments only found on other planets? Well done, everyone!

WeAreMadeInSpace5 karma

Yes! While this first printer is designed as an experiment our very next printer, due to launch next year, will be a commercially available printer for anyone on Earth to use. Companies require all types of skills and our degrees definitely reflect that. Yes! We would love to use filament from other planets especially if those planets have smaller gravity wells than Earth!

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

We have to run now! Thank you all for the great questions! Stay tuned for our launch in 33 hours!

jboullion2 karma

I have a million questions but I will just ask 3. Answer whatever you want.

  1. Will you use any form of magnets or centrifugal force to keep objects stationary or will these objects be free floating?

  2. What are the limitations of your "ink"? (ie Needs to dry instantly, light weight, prevention of particles)

  3. Will this printer be used for replacing useful items or simply for experimentation?

Thank you for your time and the advancement of Science!

WeAreMadeInSpace3 karma

  1. No
  2. It's ABS plastic, we'll let you research its limitations :)
  3. Both

Earl_Lee2 karma

Congratulations! Do you have a date for when your printer gets installed?

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

That actually depends on how quickly the experiments ahead of us can be completed, we think it will be sometime in late December. The main bottleneck is due to the fact that we are being validated within what's called the Microgravity Science Glovebox, it's small and there is a long queue ahead of us.

nerdheroine2 karma

Is that Mike photo-bombing your proof?

WeAreMadeInSpace3 karma

haha Yes

Tarudox2 karma

Hello from Canada! This morning, I read about some development of the 3D printer that will allow us to print virtually anything, regardless of what material it is composed of?

My question is simply this: what are the true manifestations of the 3D printer, and what would the large scale implications be on human society - more specifically, space travel?

Thanks for your time :)

WeAreMadeInSpace6 karma

This is a really good question. We tend to think of this moment in time as the first baby step towards the Star Trek replicator. Imagine going to Mars and rather than taking along 200,000 spare parts you just take a printer and a few hundred pounds of feedstock. It completely changes the equation for space travel and we may not know all of the applications of this technology for some time to come.

fluffy_54321 karma

What would it take to print metal? Centrifuges? Any plan for this?

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

Actually there are metal printing methods which don't require the use of centrifuges and in case my answer didn't make it obvious, yes we are working on this :)

Bohr_research1 karma

Cool tech. * Did you like Singularity University? How is Peter in real life? * What are the limitations of the technology (eg. molding required), is this different from printing on earth?

Thanks

WeAreMadeInSpace1 karma

Yes! Singularity University was one of the best experiences in our lives. Peter is very energetic, sharp, and direct. As for your other questions, I've answered a few questions on those topics already and would point you to those.

[deleted]1 karma

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WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

The printer actually is operated by our ground control team at Made In Space. There we can remotely operate the printer. To do this we connect through the space station computer system.

arcosapphire1 karma

One of the worries I have with 3D printers is ventilation. I've heard there could be serious toxicity problems from using a 3D printer in an unventilated area.

The ISS obviously has air filtration and CO2 scrubbing, but is that enough to avoid buildup of toxic particles in the air from 3D printing? Do you have to keep the printer itself carefully contained to avoid the release of toxic fumes?

ImJasonDunn1 karma

Building a 3D printer for space isn't just about making it work in zero-g, it also has to be safe enough for NASA to allow to fly on ISS. That said, we developed new technologies that deal with controlling the print environment. In the end, the printer is extremely safe, and may even have useful aspects for making terrestrial printers safer.

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

ImJasonDunn is our CTO :)

Loomismeister1 karma

What is the first thing that's going to be made once they get it up there?

WeAreMadeInSpace2 karma

We call them "test coupons" and they are designed to test the tensile strength, compression strength, flexibility, etc. of the material.

Space_Startups1 karma

How is the office dynamic around a space start-up? Relaxed? Busy?

WeAreMadeInSpace1 karma

We all work really long hours but it's a lot of fun! The project itself is exciting and the founders make it a really fun environment. We have Nerf vs. BoomCo fights around the office when we get too stressed.

[deleted]-2 karma

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WeAreMadeInSpace5 karma

That's actually a dead link from our old website, good job finding it!